Several times during Chantal’s nearly two hour set I found myself wondering if there was a musical artist who gives a more complete show to those who come out to see them. Attending a Chantal Kreviazuk show is like being brought into her life, heart and soul and even if it is only for two hours it is a large step up from what you usually get at a concert. The woman is funny, potty-mouthed (told a funny story about how her youngest son embarrassed her by dropping numerous f-bombs in his kindergarten class), self-deprecating, and does not allow that wall that often goes up between performer and audience to even think of existing. All shows should be like this.
Coming on to stage in knee high black leather boots and a black above the knee billowy dress with gold sequins on the back, Chantal was making one of her first live appearances with her newly shorn hair. Now, you cannot blame the lady for wanting a no muss, no fuss do as she has three young sons under the age of 6, so there can’t be much time for frivolous things like doing your hair.
Kreviazuk never makes a moment you see her live seem frivolous, whether she is joking or breaking your heart with her voice and songs. Seated at her usual grand piano, on this tour Kreviazuk is being supported by a wonderful trio of musicians – Kevin Fox on cello and acoustic guitar, Randy Cooke on drums and Karen Graves on violin. Though it is great seeing this lady alone onstage with just her piano, it adds a different dimension to her heartfelt music to hear it performed with several instruments.
She began the show with the upbeat “Today” off her latest album, “Plain Jane”. The applause after the first song was thunderous and caused Kreviazuk to shake her head in embarrassment. Later on she even said that she so loves playing in the city and its vibe that she should move here. I doubt she is abandoning either of her homes, Toronto and Los Angeles, for Montreal, but you honestly believed that she loves it here and the audience definitely loves her.
Kreviazuk is not an artist who has had huge worldwide success, but those who like her like her a lot. And what’s not to like? She is a classically trained pianist who writes some of the best hooks I’ve heard on piano, has a huge pitch perfect voice and writes honest songs that are bound to touch you.
L’Olympia is the perfect venue for her. It has that old school ornateness about it and the sound is wonderful. And it is small enough to allow her voice to reach each and every nook and crevass. It’s intimacy also allows her to “see” her audience, which she loves to do, and she often will look around to make eye contact with someone in order to sing directly to them. Not something you often see at a concert. She is acutely aware of her audience and makes the evening completely interactive.
On this night her voice was in top form. She is a performer who will give you a poignant performance of her songs each and every time; she is rarely off and is helped by the fact that she writes music that is obviously very important and personal to her. Besides possessing a great voice it is also one that she is able to convey emotion through. It is not only technically sound, but one that allows her to communicate.
In between many of the songs she paused to tell the audience what was going on in her life, make jokes, tell stories about her family, and speak French. She actually asked the audience if they preferred her to speak French or English. When the audience indicated that it was her choice, she still spoke occasionally in French and her French isn’t that bad considering she is a girl from Winnipeg, Manitoba and not from St. Boniface.
An extra treat was when she came out from behind her piano to take centre stage to perform two numbers, “Far Away” and “Halfway Around the World”, on acoustic guitar. She warned the audience that she was not a good guitar player, but ably made her way through the songs.
The whole night was full of a nice feeling of warmth and intimacy. Singing with home movies of your kids running on a giant screen behind you will do that. It was an evening full of personable moments. What you get from Kreviazuk is directness and vulnerability at the same time. Everything she does adds to the experience of seeing her live. She is supremely talented but remains grounded and human. This combination makes is hard to dislike her.
The opening act was another Canadian girl, Meaghan Smith. This is the second time I’ve seen Meaghan, who was recently signed to the Warner Music label, perform (as she opened for Ron Sexsmith the last time he was in Montreal) and she possesses a strong voice and writes quirky songs that sound more like they came from the 1930s or 40s than today. Her songs make you think of another time. During her short set she (accompanied on acoustic guitar by her husband Jason Mingo) and her winsome personality won the crowd over while playing songs like “5 More Minutes”, “You Got Out” and “Heartbroken”.
3) Ghosts of You
4) Half of Me
5) Ordinary People
6) Feels Like Home
7) God Made Me (with Meaghan Smith)
9) 5000 Days
10) Before You
11) Say the Word
12) Halfway Around the World (on guitar)
13) Far Away (on guitar)
14) The Way
15) All I Can Do
17) Green Apples
19) Leaving on a Jet Plane