It was very apparent to those of us at L'Olympia who have followed Jann Arden's career over the years that what we were watching and listening to on stage was a changed woman. Made me wonder why…
Jann has been at this music business for roughly 20 years and has had a successful career full of Juno Awards, a star on Canada's Walk of Fame, sold out concerts across the country, plenty of Top 10 singles, and a devoted fanbase. Twenty years into her career she decided, prompted by composer/musician/producer Bruce Leitl, that she need a musical change. The result of this collaboration was her latest album entitled "Free" and that is exactly what she sounds like. A woman without a care, singing songs she cares about and still caring about the entire human condition.
"Free" (her strongest album in years) is an album in which Arden has gone back to her roots. The songs musically are simple and clear while the lyrics remain as poignant and poetic as usual. Influenced by this it was a night of simplicity. Classic lighting, the band and Arden entirely in black and no elaborate choreography – as much as she joked about this tour featuring entirely new choreography and that she had worked with a stoned Paula Abdul on it.
Going to a Jann Arden concert has always been like getting two shows for the price of one. You get those heartbreaking songs sung by that powerful voice and also a stand up comedy show of sorts. Now the focus has been brought back, rightly so, to the great songs she sings and beautiful lyrics she writes. Don't get me wrong, as there was still plenty of the traditional Arden sense of wit. The slide show of family pictures with Jann describing them in the way only she can was a hoot! But onstage was a performer who was intent on performing and communicating the emotions behind her songs. I sometimes felt like all that humour detracted from the songs, but it was not the case on this evening.
Now some might have been disappointed with the energy level, but over the course of her 2 and a half hour show I sat enraptured. It was a night where the true essence of the songs (songs, for some, that I have heard for years now) really came through. Communicating each and every word she was singing seemed paramount. Gestures and facial expressions all went toward this end. On stage was a troubadour telling her tales.
Jann Arden's voice has always been her loyal instrument to convey her craft. It is strong and rarely falters her. But on this evening it was remarkably good. I noticed on the song "Sleepless" that it was exactly as the recorded version. She was that "on".
It was an evening that demonstrated that even well-established 47-year-old artists can evolve and it was great to see a performer who is comfortable in her own skin – and willing to share her life, loves and laughs with us.
1) Free (solo – acoustic)
2) Looking For It
3) Where No One Knows Me
4) Could I Be Your Girl
5) The Devil Won
7) At Seventeen (Janis Ian cover)
8) Insensitive (acoustic)
9) I Would Die For You (acoustic)
10) Leave Me Now
11) Yeah You
12) Wishing That
13) A Million Miles Away
14) Everybody's Broken
15) I Want to Take You Higher (Sly and the Family Stone Cover – band alone)
16) Unloved (solo -acoustic)
17) Daughter Down
18) Good Mother
19) Into the Fire
20) Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler cover)
21) To Sir With Love
22) You Shook Me All Night Long (ACDC cover)
23) All the Days