Canadian songstress dazzles in special Valentine’s Day performance
On Feb. 14, pairs plucked by cupid’s arrow and unattached admirers of live music alike took in an appropriately love-struck performance by Canadian torch singer Jill Barber at the River Run Centre. With warm stage presence, palpable charm, and a perfect combination of toe-tapping numbers and breezy ballads, Barber encapsulated old school romance by inviting the audience into a dreamy, jazz-infused world.
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Hailing from Port Credit, Ont., Barber has since been drawn to both coasts of Canada, living for some time in Halifax, Nova Scotia and eventually making the move westward to call Vancouver home. Though this CBC darling has long been on the Canadian music scene, beginning with folk-inspired albums like A Note to Follow So (2002), Oh Heart (2004, which earned Barber the Female Recording of the Year award at the 2005 Music Nova Scotia Awards), and For All Time (2006), it was Barber’s fearless transition into vocal jazz, marked by the release of Chances in 2008, that launched the artist’s career forward. After earning two Juno nominations for Chances – including one for New Artist of the Year – the reinvented Barber charged forward; the release of Mischievous Moon in 2011 solidified the singer’s utterly unique and now unmistakable vocal style.
The River Run performance was in part a celebration of Barber’s latest musical endeavour, Chansons – a collection of covers of classic French love songs. In the style of one of Barber’s noted inspirations, Parisian ballad singer Édith Piaf, these melodies of love and loss seemed a natural addition to the starry-eyed performer’s musical repertoire.
Barber was accompanied onstage by a suave, multi-talented ensemble of musicians – bandmates Les Cooper (guitar), Steve Zsirai (bass), Adam Warner (drums, percussion), Robbie Grunwald (piano, accordion), and modern-day Renaissance man Drew Jurecka, who contributed musical stylings on violin, sax, mandolin, accordion, and clarinet, as well as a memorable whistle solo, which may have garnered the most applause all evening.
Also scattered throughout the performance were beloved tracks from Barber’s previous albums, including “Mischievous Moon,” “Chances,” “Never Quit Loving You,” “Take It Off Your Mind,” an upbeat, a cappella arrangement of “A Wish Under My Pillow,” and the audience-requested “Starting to Show,” which Barber appropriately used to announce the news of her pregnancy. Tender moments like this one were not rare, and when shared alongside witty anecdotes from Barber and bandmates, the show was consistently entertaining and intimate. With the expert execution of a charming and heartfelt performance, it’s safe to say that Barber seduced even the most pessimistic of hearts.
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