Tag Archives: Jane Siberry

Siberry the best: an intimate gig from ‘Canada’s answer to Kate Bush’

4 Oct
jane-siberry

Jane Siberry: new album Angels Bend Closer is out in November

“My darlings, arise from your mossy beds, and leave your lichen dreams behind…”

These were the first words Jane Siberry uttered when she got up on stage last night. The opening lyrics to her song Morag were subtly altered to address her audience directly; they were liltingly spoken and not sung, without accompaniment from the guitar hanging round her neck. Instantly the 350-strong crowd gathered in London’s St James’s Theatre Studio – a far more intimate venue than this Canadian superstar would have commanded back home – were drawn close into Siberryland, a place where none of the usual rules of music, performance and even rationality apply.

Jane Siberry is sometimes described as Canada’s answer to Kate Bush, or to Tori Amos, as a way of explaining the reverence in which she is held in her native land. In truth, she has no more in common with them than they do with each other, beyond the fact that they all defy easy comparison or categorisation.

Siberry’s songs are like poems, or fragments of dreams. Her tunes are achingly beautiful but, like a painter who’s never quite happy with their canvas, she likes to mess them about in live performance until they are more perfectly imperfect. Her voice is a softly skirling, whirling bird of a thing, gusting upward on a sudden draught of inspiration and hovering briefly on its flight of fancy, before swooping down again to carry off the fugitive melody.

“Whoops,” she says at one point, smiling and correcting the fingering on her guitar, “I’ve drifted away from the chord.” After nearly 40 years in the music business, she seems more relaxed and at home on the stage with a crowd of strangers than most people are in their living room with close friends.

And she’s funny. After a particularly loud and long round of applause, she says, mock petulantly, “Fine. Chase me away with your clapping.” She introduces her song Dante by saying it’s not about the Italian poet, but named after a horse “who stamped negative energy into the ground”.

Having praised her sometime collaborator, k.d. lang, by saying “for some reason, artists like her and Frank Sinatra, their soul leaks on to their everyday voice”, she immediately undercuts her gushing with an aside, in the serious tones of a doctor delivering a diagnosis: “It could be leaky soul syndrome.” And, finding herself getting too deep about her combative mother, she adds: “I was thrilled when she died, because I finally got her to admit that if she’d been born in my times, she’d have been texting way more than me.”

Siberry has a new album out in mid-November: Angels Bend Closer, her first major recording in six years. On the evidence of this enchanting and enchanted evening, even with 20 previous CDs behind her, Siberry has plenty of magical surprises still up her sleeve.

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The revolution starts here: Toronto Open Tuning Festival

20 Jun
Mr. P's Ukulele Jam at the Open Tuning festival. Photo: Monica Gupta

Mr. P’s Ukulele Jam, Open Tuning Festival. Pic: Monica Gupta

I’ve just travelled 3,000 miles to see the second annual Open Tuning Festival in Seaton Village, Toronto. (If I were being boringly pedantic, I might specify that I travelled 3,000 miles to see my old friend Ian Sinclair, who happens to be helping put on this festival today, but why let that stand in the way of a good opener?)

It’s a lovely idea: a community-based free festival, using local shops, parks and houses for venues, where anyone who wants can turn up and play. There’s bluegrass, blues, punk, rock, and the brilliantly named ukulele band, Uke Till You Puke. A guy in his fifties played solo by a corner shop with an amp and a guitar, at first to just two people; a group of teens showed with their skateboards, and amazingly stayed to listen for a few songs, despite him ignoring repeated requests to play Smells Like Teen Spirit. A beautiful young girl with an Afro walked past, too cool to change expression, but she nodded to the beat as though signalling approval.

My friend Ian joined him on the bass, then went on to join the Raisins and Grapes a cappella choir, the pitched roof of the porch they sang on giving the effect of a tiny church. At 7pm he’ll be joining his old friend Frank in a jam at the Yoga Sanctuary on the corner of Clinton and Bloor. Genuine Canadian star Jane Siberry will provide the 9.30pm finale in Vermont Park.

This is a festival as it should be: no mud, no hassle; all smiles. You’d think it might be sad to see these men and women, some young but many in their fifties, even sixties – estate agents now, probably, or businessmen, or builders – dusting off their instruments and rekindling the fires of youth. But it’s not. It’s uplifting, and a helluva lotta fun. Because for them, as for most, it was never about the fame or the fortune or the fanfare of big audiences. It was simply because music moved them to pick up the guitar and create songs, and the music moves them still.

The brilliance of the Open Tuning festival is in realising that just as every garage can be a rehearsal space, so every porch can be a stage, and the lawn in front of it a mini-festival. Every town should have a free festival like this. But for now, the revolution starts here: in Seaton Village, Toronto.