“Please Forgive My Heart” path to Bahamas live staple is unlikely. The Bobby Womack track came out in 2012, and I swear Afie Jurvanen, the man behind the Toronto, ON-based Bahamas, has been covering it live ever since, even going on to record it for his iTunes Sessions EP. The song is great at showing off what’s amazing about Bahamas, on stage or not. The song’s slow build could turn into monotony in the hands of lesser artists. But in the band’s current touring lineup, Jurvanen and Christine Bougie take small moments to let their guitar work shine, the backing vocals from Felicity Williams and Tamara Lindeman of the Weather Station perfectly underpin the action and Jason Tait is still the perfect mix of power and restraint on the drums.
Bahamas are a completely killer live act, as they proved in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 22.
Lindeman was around to jump in on “Please Forgive My Heart” as her one-person act the Weather Station was opening that leg of the tour. She found a welcoming audience that night. If I were a solo artist, I’d always be concerned about being overpowered by such a large crowd. Credit goes then, in reverse order, to the Broadway Theatre for being a listener-oriented venue, to the sold-out crowd for being full of attentive music lovers and most of all to the Weather Station herself for being so captivating.
Jurvanen is on the record as being a big Weather Station fan –– my favourite instance being in this Globe and Mail article, where he pushes a copy of her record across the table and says, “I’m just trying to spread the gospel” –– and it’s easy to see why. Her songs feature air-tight storytelling, top-to-bottom compelling work drawn from a traditional folk style. And her singing –– Lindeman reaches every note, high or low, with complete, impressive ease. With her and her acoustic, she’s a complete musical package, to the point where it’s hard to imagine adding much more. But when Jurvanen joined her on stage and she switched to electric for her last few songs, there was suddenly a whole new side to the Weather Station’s work that was just as compelling.
Shortly after the Weather Station finished up, Bahamas jumped right into it, opening with “Never Again” from 2012’s Barchords. The song’s a slow build, like “Please Forgive My Heart” which was pulled out for the encore, in a way, but slower and smaller. By the end of the song, though, Jurvanen and company had practically exploded on the stage, Jurvanen even breaking out his incredible falsetto that on the albums he often reserves for singing his own backing parts.
Part of the attraction of going to a Bahamas show is just being in Jurvanen’s presence. He’s got a gentlemanly way about him, tiptoeing around curse words and being polite as anyone up there in his own way. Alongside that, he’s a bit of rogue, containing a dry edge that’s charming and often hilarious. The songs themselves are where all this boils over, his calm restraint breaking down into a shimmying of the hips or a flamboyant guitar strum. No joke: at one point in Saskatoon, he purposefully strummed his guitar in a funny way during a song and got a laugh from the crowd and didn’t break the mood. How someone can make all that work is tough to contemplate, but Jurvanen can do it.
Bahamas blitzed through a chunk of Barchords material before going into the new album, this year’s Bahamas is Afie. Like with his last two records, Jurvanen did most of the work for the album himself and did it in such a way as to feature the songs in their simplest, most subtle forms. In concert, the songs get a new life put into them by a great set of performers who can can sometimes reimagine the material. “I Had It All”, a quiet little song on the backend of the record, gets a much bigger treatment live, while “Stronger Than That”, the most radio-ready track on the album, got pulled into the set of songs Jurvanen played solo.
And you know what? It still worked, because Jurvanen and Bahamas as a whole are just an amazing live act.