Beauty Bound (Part 4)

“Come on, come on, come on, come on come on. Let me into your temple…” Jane Siberry

Okay, this is a bit of a cheat calling this a part four, when the other three parts were way back in the spring, but it feels like a natural conclusion to the “Jane Siberry arc” so I’m going with it.

Soon after I finished my review of her new album, Jane Siberry’s “fan newsletter” showed up in my inbox. As mentioned before, she doesn’t tour much these days, but she pops up here and there. I was delighted to see that among some British dates, she was appearing at a music festival in northern Ontario and then, at a HOUSE CONCERT here in my home city. Here, finally, after a decade of hoping, Jane Siberry was going to be performing close by. There was no mention in the email where the house concert was taking place, nor was there any ticket information, so I didn’t worry about it, assuming more information was to come.

You can imagine my surprise when a month rolled by and her next email landed, saying that the first house concert sold out, but that she had added a second night! What the HELL?! How did this happen? I could see my chances of seeing Jane again slipping away. But then I remembered the success I’ve had in the past contacting the source, and so I thought, “well it couldn’t hurt, could it?”

So for maybe the third time in the past thirty years I emailed Jane Siberry directly. At this point I really shouldn’t have been surprised that she herself emailed back, but it still gave me a bit of a thrill, I must admit. She simply said, “I’ll get you tickets”, and that was it.

I didn’t really know how to proceed. I felt like emailing her again to ask about the particulars, but a part of me felt that we had made contact, and for me to ask for further clarification would be seen as crass, and I knew she worked on her own time and in her own mysterious ways (like the LORD), and felt like “things were in motion”.

I trusted, and a few days later I received an email from “Stan”, who said he heard I was interested in getting tickets to Jane Siberry’s house concert. She came through! Again! I even had the nerve to tell Stan that the night that still had tickets wasn’t a great night for me, schedule-wise, and was it possible to get tickets to the sold out night? He seemed really chill about it, and said he was sure there would be people with Tuesday tickets who wouldn’t mind going Monday, and in another few days had emailed me back saying that all was arranged.

A few days later I went by his house, only a 5 minute drive from home, to pay for the tickets, and then it was just a matter of waiting for August.

A house concert! Have you ever heard of such a thing? Apparently the idea is that a person will hang out in places where musicians like to gather, and then LURE one of them back to their HOUSE and make them do a concert in front of strangers. I guess it’s really no different than going to a regular concert in a theatre, except that when you do that, there’s no expectation to socialize with the people around you. You may smile nicely at the man next to you as you take your seat, you may nod your head in understanding as you pull your legs in (or even stand, I’m a stander, personally) as concert goers squeeze past you to get to their seats. You may even form a micro-bond with the concert goers around you, especially if you happen to be in a General Admittance situation. I recall standing next to a guy from San Jose for most of U2’s Popmart concert in Vancouver in 1997 and when the giant screen turned red towards the end of the main set, as the band modulated from “Please” into “Where the Streets Have No Name”, he turned to me and shouted, “No fuckin’ way!” and I just nodded my head, having seen the show two times previous, and responded, “You know it, man!” Our bromance only lasted until “If you Wear that Velvet Dress” and we drifted apart during the final encore, “One”, I’m sorry to say. I wonder if he ever thinks of me?

But a house concert is different. You are going to someone’s house, and it has all the trappings of a gathering of friends, except my wife and I only knew each other. We walked up the steps and through the veranda and all of a sudden we were in Stan’s house. I looked around for Stan to give him our tickets, but there was no sign of him. We stood dumbstruck in the front hallway for what felt like an uncomfortably long time, until two women came in the door behind us. Now there were four of us standing there, and we naturally moved further into the house. Before we knew it we were in the kitchen, where all kinds of snacks and drinks were laid out. I vaguely recalled an email from Stan saying that we could bring snacks and alcoholic drinks if we liked, but he would have snacks and soft drinks on hand. I asked my wife if she wanted a drink, and she seemed as uncomfortable as I did, but we ended up pouring a couple of Sprites into a couple of red solo cups and grabbed a plate and loaded up on snacks. Everyone else was doing it, so why not?

The living room was set up like a mini-theatre. The area closest to the front of the house was the “stage” and then about 30 card table chairs were set up in rows leading back towards the kitchen. Only a couple of people were already sitting, and we could have sat anywhere. We chose the second row, but the first row seemed just a bit too close for comfort. I love Jane Siberry, but I didn’t think I needed to have her spittle land on my face. It seemed to us that a lot of people knew each other, and were happily chatting away, as if they really were over at a friend’s place for board games and fun times. Who knows? Maybe people work the “house concert” circuit and make it a regular part of their entertainment budget?

Before long, the room filled and I still hadn’t found Stan. I was in the room under false pretenses! (Sort of), I mean I felt like I needed to show proof of ticket purchase to SOMEONE, but showing my wife my ticket seemed weird and unnecessary, so I kept it all in. At last, there he was, across the room, but it felt like the window of presenting my ticket to him had passed. After all, I had just downed a Sprite (and was thinking of a second one) and had munched down a plate of cheese, veggies, popcorn and chips, so I played it cool. It certainly didn’t seem like he was concerned about checking for tickets, so why was I?

Stan seemed like a real music fan, as his home was decorated with all kinds of signed posters and album covers. All of them were personalized, from The Tragically Hip, “Thanks for the fun times, Stan. Gord Downie.” to one of my wife’s favourite singers, Kathleen Edwards, “You’re the best, Stan!” and even a cryptic note from the late great, Lou Reed, “It really was a ‘Perfect Day’, wasn’t it? Lou Reed.” I’d love to hear some of the stories behind these signed bits of memorabilia, but I didn’t have the nerve.

Stan made his way to the front of the living room and welcomed us all, and said that if his 15 year old self would have known that Jane Siberry would one day play in his living room, his head would have exploded. I could relate. I liked this dude. I’m glad Jane made him email me. Jane was on a “double bill” with a local band called “Leaf Rapids”, but it really felt like “LR” was the opener. They had spent the last week with JS, doing house concerts and festivals in Ontario before ending up back in Winnipeg. The lead singer, Keri Latimer, was delightful and it was fun to hear her geeking out over spending all this time with Jane Siberry too. She didn’t tell too many stories, but you really got a sense that their time together was meaningful and that maybe, just maybe, they would work together again in the future some time.

As Leaf Rapids was finishing up their set, they called up “a very special guest” to play keyboards with them, and there, all of a sudden, in our midst, like the Lord after the resurrection, was Jane Siberry. She looked dazzling in a black shimmery top and tons of necklaces and people stood to their feet, involuntarily, as she made her way through us to the keyboard. She gave a little bow and then Leaf Rapids launched into their final song with their newly added member. At the end of that song, Jane strapped on a guitar and took centre stage to play one of her own songs with the band. It was “You don’t need” from 1984’s No Borders Here, and all of a sudden I was transported to that place you go when you think you hear an angel’s voice again. The song must have only been 3 or 4 minutes, but it really felt like time stopped during the performance. He voice sounded strong and sweet and light as air and clear and before you knew it, it was over. And it was time for an intermission.

What a tease!

We loaded up on more snacks and knew we were going to be in for a real treat in the second half.

It seemed like FOREVER before the second half started. I felt like that little girl in Ray Bradbury’s “The Screaming Woman”, “The people MOVED slow, they TALKED slow, the drinks were POURED slow and DRUNK slow, and I just wanted to scream and scream and scream…” and then FINALLY Stan took to the stage/front part of his house and said that it was time for Jane Siberry.

She came out again (to another ovation), and stood at the microphone and began to recite the lyrics to “Morag”, which also act a beautiful inspirational poem all on their own. She changed the first line from “Oh my darling” to “Oh my darlings” and when she said “darlings” a woman behind us sighed so sweetly and said “Awww” so softly, I’m sure she didn’t even realize she said it out loud, but we all felt the same.

Right from the first moment, Jane Siberry had us all in the palm of her hand. She let us into her temple. We were bound by her beauty. She sang a version of “Five and Dime” off her new album, which talks about the interconnectedness of all people by telling a series of vignettes strung together by a chorus. The cool thing was that in this live version she sang different vignettes than what appear on the album, as if this song is merely a template for inserting whatever stories or situations she feels like singing about on that day. It is also a good example of Jane’s “Talk-Singing” that you either like or not. I happen to like it more when it’s live in concert than listening to it as a recording, but that’s just me.

There were definitely highlights in the evening, like when we all sang “Calling All Angels” together. Before we started she said, “Don’t worry if you are wrong, as long as you are strong” and that seemed to give the crowd encouragement to sing without self-awareness. It was much stranger singing among 30 or so people than with a full theatre, but it was also weirdly intimate and harkened back to what I can only imagine salon concerts must have been like before the days of records, tapes and CDs. I sometimes wondered what Stan’s neighbours must have thought of all this, but maybe they were used to it.

At another point, she segued from “Love is Everything” into “The Great Train” one of the new ones. I nodded my head in silent approval, as I had felt that these two songs were meant to be played together, and were somehow spiritual siblings. Jane felt the same way too! The album version of “The Great Train” has some beautiful backing vocals which were sorely missing from her solo version, and I could just tell my wife was itching to jump in and sing those parts for her. So was I. I wonder what would have happened if we did? Maybe we should have just taken Jane’s advice from earlier and sung “strong” and not worry about being “wrong”? A missed opportunity, but the evening wasn’t about us.

Then suddenly she announced that she had just one more song to sing. I couldn’t believe it. “But you’ve only sung for 20 minutes!” I felt like shouting, but when I looked at the time, 2 full hours had passed since she began. Just as time stood still for “You don’t need”, it seemed to race forward during her main set.

Her last song was “Geranium”. Readers of this blog may remember that I quoted from this song three times earlier this year when I wrote my first three JS posts, so it really seemed fitting to me that things would wrap up with it. I didn’t know it was about the death of her father, but it makes sense now that you know. At the very end of the song, she teased us fans with just a little snippet of “The Life is the Red Wagon” piano instrumental as the night came to a glorious end.

We all knew that going into this concert that this would probably be the last time we’d see Jane Siberry live in concert, and that for many of us we never thought we’d see her in concert again, after all that Issa business.

To everyone’s delight, however, Jane had a special announcement partway through the concert. She herself said that she thought her latest CD, “Ulysses’ Purse” would be her very last recording. But then after it came out, some people contacted her to say they wanted to work with her and record with her and this fall she’s heading to Los Angeles to record some new songs and to record some rearrangements of older songs, and there will be a NEW ALBUM out sometime in the new year and who knows after that? More touring? More music? A “Beauty Bound Part 5”???

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see “what in the world will the world bring today?”, or tomorrow. Exciting times.

JS

Oh, and I never DID show my ticket to ANYONE.

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