Whilst the new record falls short of a complete reinvention, it’s fair to say that Basia Bulat has certainly developed her sound on Good Advice, which was released in February. Produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, who is no stranger to reinventing his own musical direction, the record eschews the exquisitely crafted folk songs from previous albums, delivering instead a collection of tracks whose architectural blueprint appears to be the big, bold, and intelligent pop song. The big question this evening then is whether or not this new sound will translate well in the grungy confines of The Soup Kitchen’s dark basement.
Before Basia is allowed to provide any answers to this question the early arrivers are treated to an absolute gem of an opening act. Toronto-based folk band The Weather Station are led by singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman. She possesses an easy going charm along with an assured collection of songs grounded in personal experiences, all presented within an intriguing landscape synonymous with the Americana genre. Her set possess an enormously satisfying blend of Joni Mitchell-esque sincerity along with a more contemporary approach to rhythm and tempo that Laura Marling fans will recognise. Vocally pure, her songs are built around her sweet, clean guitar work that occasionally morphs into grungy solos that possess an improvised style that on one occasion doesn’t always come off as planned. This is a minor lapse that in no way degrades the quality that surrounds it and it is just a shame that her humourous reference to the infamous Nick Jonas guitar solo fail at the ACM Awards recently was not fully appreciated by those in attendance tonight.
Already a star in her native Canada, Basia Bulat’s latest album possesses a grand opulence clearly suitable for the size of venues she performs in back home. The Soup Kitchen’s cramped, underground stage therefore seems inappropriate for her incandescent brand of pop music, but experiencing the multi-instrumentalist in such intimate surroundings proves to be an amazing and completely exhilarating experience this evening. Bulat arrives on stage looking absolutely resplendent in the golden cape featured on the album cover, and launches into Let Me In, which starts gracefully before showcasing her impassioned vocals as the track progresses. La La Lie is an unadulterated joy, just as it is on record. Tamara Lindeman provides vital backing vocals and subtle harmonies throughout and the band appear to be having so much fun playing these new tracks, which dominate the set list, it becomes impossible not to get caught up in the passion of the performance.
The set introduces some variety after the sober Time as Basia changes the pace when she introduces her earlier folk material, which she explains justifies the wearing of the cape! The inclusion of Heart of My Own, Five, Four, Little Waltz and Gold Rush changes the tone and drama of the evening. Musically, her reputation on the autoharp proceeds her and these more restrained tracks still possess thrilling moments including a deftly performed solo on the instrument that is a joy to behold.
A return to the new album comes in the form of the title track and the timeless quality of this new collection of tracks is no more apparent than on Good Advice. Basia Bulat and Natalie Prass certainly seem to have this particular genre covered and have done so in some style. The musical authenticity combined with Bulat’s compelling vocals contribute to the electrifying evening and it’s fabulous to see her band having so much fun as well.
Infamous is an incredible album highlight and is a thrilling way to close things out before the one-song encore, Hush is performed a cappella with only nimble foot stamps and dextrous hand claps to accompany her, harking back to her gospel leanings which helped to establish her career almost a decade ago. It’s an understated and satisfying way to end what has been an electrifying and intimate performance, which could perhaps be enhanced even further in grander surroundings in the future.
The Weather Station
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Review and Photos by Iain Fox | @IainFoxPhoto