Friday, February 10, 2012

Wilco review

My review of Wilco's fantastic show at the Orpheum is online at


Orpheum, Vancouver BC February 5

Wilco - Orpheum, Vancouver BC February 5

By Andrea Warner 

Nine songs into one of the best shows the Orpheum has ever hosted, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy finally spoke to his rapt audience, most of whom had been on their feet from the moment the band took the stage. He spontaneously congratulated one couple on their engagement and guessed that another guy had recently lost a pet, jokingly explaining to the crowd that he was psychic.

Well, he might be. There's really no other way to explain how eerily prescient the band's set list proved to be for one disastrous relationship that imploded in halting highs and lows, distractingly, publicly, in the front row throughout Wilco's career-spanning two-hour set.

The drama began about 15 minutes before Tweedy and crew hit the stage, when some kind of argument -- the woman was furious, the man was attempting to cajole her into good spirits, it seemed -- escalated, and the woman suddenly slapped the man across the face. She stormed out and it seemed perhaps the drama was over before it began. Sadly, she came back just as the house lights dimmed and the overhead lights illuminated the beautiful stage design -- long ropes of knotted white cloths that looked like miniature homemade ghost costumes hanging in rows and rows.

The band opened with the beautiful Whole Love weeper "One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)." As Tweedy sang the chorus, "Outside I look lived in / Like the bones in a shrine / How am I forgiven? / Oh, I'll give it time," the man mouthed along, attempting to put his arm around the woman's shoulder, only to have her eventually shrug him off angrily. This continued through a stunning version of "Poor Places" and a psychedelic light display for the psych-rocking "Art of Almost," followed by the peppy, almost joyful "I Might."

As the couple's fighting continued, the band moved onto one of their biggest hits, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," with the whole audience belting along with the soaring chorus. Tweedy's lyrical poignancy increased on the heart-breaking "Radio Cure" -- "All distance has a way of making love understandable" -- and the fight got physical again as the woman pushed the man about four feet and stormed over to security. After an intense discussion, which Tweedy seemed to watch out of the corner of his eye while he jammed on the guitar, security left them both where they were and Wilco kicked up the beat.

There was a little country edge of "Born Alone" before the band made their way to the stirring "I'll Fight," with Tweedy promising, "I'll fight, I'll fight, I'll fight, I'll fight for you / I'll kill, I'll kill, I'll kill, I'll kill for you / I will, I will, I will," and of course the man sang along while the woman shooed him away. When Wilco busted out "Via Chicago" and Tweedy sang, "I dreamed about killing you again last night / And it felt all right to me," he seemed to sing it in their direction pointedly, a gleam in his eye and a smile on his lips.

Security came by again for the couple -- and left almost as quickly -- just after Wilco came back for their encore following a thunderous standing ovation. Tweedy turned on his falsetto for a beautiful version of "Whole Love" before segueing into fan favourite "Heavy Metal Drummer." The big, bold finish came courtesy of the crashing crescendo of "Outtasight (Outta Mind)," the perfect end to an amazing show, and a fantastic kiss-off -- hopefully -- to love gone wrong.


My Bahamas feature is in this month's Exclaim and online.

Bahamas On the Mend

Bahamas On the Mend

By Andrea Warner 

The name conjures up sticky days giving way to long, warm nights, but fans of Afie Jurvanen's solo project, Bahamas, know the Toronto-based singer-songwriter is much more comfortable singing about his life far from paradise. His debut, Pink Strat, tracked the highs and lows of a doomed relationship, and three years later, Jurvanen is back with Barchords.

I'm kind of weary to talk too much about the genesis," Jurvanen laughs. "It was one of those things that just took forever to process. Both of my records chronicle this period of my life... Okay, yeah, it's a breakup album." He laughs again, and admits that since this is the beginning of his press tour, he hasn't got an eloquent response at the ready. But that's part of why people are drawn to in his music: bare bones honesty.

The self-taught guitarist spent years playing in Feist's band and backing friends like Jason Collett. Though Pink Strat offered some subtle deviations into indie folk, blues and rock, Barchords embraces those genres wholeheartedly, with some detours into pop and gospel as well. With the songs recorded over a year ago – Barchords was delayed when U.S. label Brushfire signed Bahamas last year and released Pink Strat domestically – Jurvanen is digging back into songs that were written at a very different time and place.

My domestic situation is much healthier now," he laughs, quickly adding that "the relationships of my past are very precious and important and I don't want to make light of them at all. But, personally, I'm in a much better place. And even musically, I don't know if confident is the right word, but I just feel comfortable. That's a nice feeling right now, to be starting a new record that way."

Bahamas online

My news story on Bahamas is online at

Bahamas Talks 'Barchords,' Shares Album Stream 
By Andrea Warner

In the space of four years, Afie Jurvanen has gone from a part of Feist's backing band to a solo star of his own as alt-country folk rocker Bahamas. His 2009 debut, Pink Strat, was a richly textured examination of a romantic relationship seemingly staggering towards its end. His follow-up, Barchords, comes on the other side of love's slow death, and brings with it the kind of aching sadness, lingering anger and objective clarity that only comes well after you've given back the other person's stuff.

The new LP arrives Tuesday (February 7) on Universal/Republic in Canada, and all week you can stream the album here in Exclaim!'s Click Hear section.

Speaking to Exclaim!, Jurvanen says of Barchords, "I was struggling with something that was on and off and on and off for a long time, and it was something that was wonderful and amazing, but it was also something very difficult and painful. It was one of those things that just took forever to process, you know? Both of my records kind of chronicle this period of my life. So, yeah, it's a breakup album. All of my albums have been breakup albums."

And everyone loves a great breakup album. While touring in support of Pink Strat, Jurvanen earned the support of a slew of famous fans-turned-friends, such as Elvis Costello, as well as the attention of American label, Brushfire Records. The company re-released Pink Strat in the U.S., which delayed Barchords' release by a full year.

"In a way it's kind of strange now, it's going to go out into the world and have a life of its own and people are going to react to it," Jurvanen says. "For so long it was just something on a spool of tape and on a computer and every now and then I'd listen to it again to make sure I didn't hate it!"

Admittedly, Barchords is a vastly different landscape than its predecessor, but it's quite a natural evolution. Everything, from lyrics to influences to production, feels more complex. Melancholy haunts every song, from the sad cabaret of "Montreal" to the ironically titled "Overjoyed." Even the most upbeat, triumphant moments, such as the gospel-tinged "Never Again" and "I Got You Babe" are rooted in loss. When Jurvanen sings, "Do I hold you back in all the ways I lack?" it's another standout moment of heartbreaking self-awareness.

"Making it personal has been my foundation for writing songs since I began," he says. "I've made forays into more storytelling or conjuring things or exaggerating things but they're not the songs that resonate."

With the album's release date just around the corner, Jurvanen has been familiarizing himself again with these songs that catalogue his heartbreak. Thankfully, time and circumstance have him firmly separated from dwelling too deeply in the past.

"My domestic situation is much healthier," he laughs. "Personally, I'm in a much better place. And even musically, I don't know if confident is the right word, but I just feel comfortable. I feel comfortable singing, and I think when you're younger you spend a lot of time trying to find your voice as a writer, a singer, a performer, but in the last few years we've just done so much touring, it's really nice to get to a point where you can just play and stand behind your songs and stand next to them as something you've created and something that's a part of you. That's a nice feeling right now, to be starting a new record that way."

To hear those results, simply click here. And to read more of Exclaim!'s interview with Bahamas, head here. Plus catch him on Exclaim! TV here.