Anytime I have seen Juno Award winner Holly McNarland perform live I have wondered at the juxtapositions of opposites that the experience is. She is at the same time completely accessible and somewhat shy onstage. Then there is her demeanour on stage. Many times she seems like she is having an epileptic fit with all her twitching and hand waving. Most of the time her eyes are closed, she doesn't seem to know what to do with her hands and she's making these faces….don't get me wrong, the woman is totally into what she is doing, so much so that she does not always connect with the audience in the moment. But then there's the voice. That voice of gold. It is powerful (amazing considering she is tiny) and full of emotion. When Holly McNarland sings it seems as if she is being controlled by that voice and then you forget everything about her not exactly being a graceful mover on stage.
A friend and I took the 2 hour trip over to Ottawa on beautiful late fall day, had dinner then headed over to the venue for the ticket dictated 8 p.m. show time. This is where the evening got a little trying. After being made to wait in line outside Mavericks 30 minutes past the scheduled show time we were finally let in. Then after waiting another 30 minutes I strolled over to the sound board to see that there were two opening acts (one beginning at 9:45 and the other at 10:45) and Holly was only scheduled to take the stage at 11:45 p.m. Sheesh! That's a little late, no?! Especially when the ticket says 8:00! And you have a 2 hour drive home afterwards.
Despite the late starting time the show was well worth it. After opening acts Veronique (acoustic set by a lady with a rocker's heart) and Fused (4-piece rock band with a female lead singer with a ballsy, bluesy voice) had sufficiently warmed up the crowd, Holly came on stage to much applause and she seemed genuinely surprised by it and appreciative. Over the course of her 75 minute set the appreciation on her part and the adoration on the part of the audience did not diminish.
Holly McNarland is at a strange crossroad in her career as she announced towards the end of her set with middle finger raised that she is without a label or management. She is on My Space and Facebook, but nothing else that usually accompanies a successful music career. Where does she go next? It seems as if she has been writing songs (there were a couple of new ones in her set), but there was no mention of an album in the works or about to be released. What is a fan to do?
Well, for the moment it seems as if there will be some concerts around the Ontario area to enjoy. They are all in small venues and are exactly the types of places that are perfect to showcase her talents. She possesses the gift of a voice with huge power and emotion and an ability to write rock songs that perfectly convey the emotions she is feeling. Listening to her music you know what Holly was thinking or feeling when she writes a song. Whether angry (plenty of those early in her career) or sad the feelings are clear and her wonderful voice is the vessel that transmits the emotions.
Standing within a few feet of her at Mavericks you could really feel the intensity and passion emitting from her. That plus the waft of Jagermeister, of which she consumed several shots during her set. The alcohol consumption might account for the fact that she forgot the lyrics to a few of her songs (she writes her own music), none more so than the encore she did of "Beautiful Blue". Though it did turn into one of the better moments of an evening full of them. The crowd continued the song on for her during her lapses and she applauded us for our memories then said that she had goosebumps as a result. It was a nice moment to see a musician affected by the fact that their music has affected others.
1) So Cold
2) Bye Bye Boy
3) Dry As a Bone
4) Devil That You Know (new song)
6) Sad Songs
8) Sometime's Alone is Just Fine (new song)
13) Beautiful Blue
14) Hey (cover)