Saturday, June 1, 2013

Amelia Curran at the National Arts Centre

Amelia Curran closed this season’s series of NAC Presents concerts at the National Arts Centre Studio in Ottawa last night with an intimate and charming 90-minute concert that earned her a well-deserved standing ovation.

I first discovered Amelia and her songs in 2008 when Six Shooter Records picked up her fourth album, War Brides, for national release. In picking the album for my list of best folk and roots releases of the year I wrote in the Montreal Gazette, “This quietly stunning album heralds the arrival of Newfoundlander Amelia Curran as one of this country’s finest singer-songwriters.”

Since then I’ve also written about her equally superb albums Hunter, Hunter – which won the Juno for best roots/traditional album by a solo artist – and Spectators, her current album. Although I’ve seen her do a couple of short sets – most recently at the Folk Alliance conference in February – this was my first chance to see her carry a full evening.

And carry it she did. The intimate, 300-seat NAC Studio was a perfect space for her solo performance with its excellent sound and sight lines. Surrounded on three sides by the audience just a few feet away, Amelia quickly established an easy-going, barrier-free rapport with the audience.

Although she included some older songs, the evening’s repertoire leaned heavily on songs from Hunter, Hunter and Spectators. Among the standouts were “The Mistress,” powerfully sung from the perspective of a mistress trying to speak to a lover who won’t answer her call; “Bye Bye Montreal,” a bitter farewell to a lover and to a city; “Wrecking Ball,” a song, seemingly, to oneself moving through life, “Last Call,” a song for the end of an evening and the end of a relationship; “You Won’t Find Me,” in which she referenced the great Newfoundland songwriter Ron Hynes and interjected a hilarious story about singing the song at a folk festival when Ron was on stage beside her; “Face on the News,” a quiet reflection on fragility and struggle; and “The Modern Man,” a song of questions, answers and reflections reminiscent of Leonard Cohen.

Amelia referred to the concert – a headlining appearance at Canada’s National Arts Centre – as a “rite of passage.” Indeed, her appearance there heralds her justifiable recognition as one of this country’s finest artists to emerge over the past decade.

Pictured: Amelia Curran at the Folk Alliance International conference in Toronto, February 24, 2013, 12:47 am. (Photo: Mike Regenstreif)

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--Mike Regenstreif

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