When Andy Shauf came back onto the stage for an encore, it was to big applause. Foot stomping, shouting, the whole bit. He played “Hometown Hero”, the first track off his latest album, The Bearer of Bad News, on his own, and then quickly slid offstage.
There’s no doubt that he could’ve played a lot longer last night at Artesian on 13th, who co-presented the show with the Regina Folk Festival Concert Series. He played what felt like a normal-sized set, but the crowd was eating it up. Regina isn’t quite his hometown, but we’ve certainly taken him in as if it was.
First up for the night, though, was Marine Dreams, better known as Ian Kehoe. He was performing solo on acoustic, a sound that’s a far cry from what Marine Dreams started out as. Back in 2011, the former Attack in Black member was running the thing as a promising rock act who’d put out a self-titled LP that I’d loved. A couple of years, his material had veered off in another direction, and that’s where we find ourselves today.
His songs are full, top to bottom, leaving little space to breathe. It’s almost the same way his labelmate Tamara Lindeman (otherwise known as the Weather Station) has seemingly dozens of songs filled to top to bottom with lyrical ideas, though Kehoe doesn’t manage them quite as well. Another comparison point is Swedish pop genius Jens Lekman, who can write parts of songs that are counterintuitive, running against the listeners expectations. Kehoe has some of that, but without Lekman’s irony, instead with a pure, unfiltered earnestness.
He played with a bounce in his knees and the closed-eyes intensity some acoustic players get, while not always hitting all the vocal notes he manages on the albums. As he mentioned, this is his first tour of the western part of Canada, so maybe the practice will do him some good.
After a break, Shauf and his band –– including Kehoe on drums –– took the stage, starting out with “Wendell Walker”. The song’s a long one off Bearer, lasting over eight minutes, and a dark one, too, being one of the few he’s got to feature some gunplay. It set the tone, though. There’d be no conventional uplift for the evening. And it would also be a night filled with these kind of character songs. Anyone who’s spent the past few years listening to Bearer –– which came out in 2012 and is in the midst of a re-release as Shauf tours it around –– has heard his gift for bringing out the lives of people often trapped in circumstances beyond their control. Some of those tracks were played last night, along with new songs that matched the old material nicely.
Shauf has the right bunch of dudes for the material, too. Bearer is concise and judicious in how it uses instrumentation, no single instrument playing for a second longer than it needs to. For a band that might build up a squall of noise on occasion, they keep the best qualities of the album, even if the record’s clarinet work is sorely missing.
Shauf’s charm played big throughout the evening. He seems like a naturally quiet guy, not giving to too many words in mixed company. At Artesian, the sold-out crowd gladly took everything he was giving out, and would’ve gladly taken more, too.