Friday’s Summer Concert Best Yet

Meaford’s local impresario, Chris Scerri has a real talent for putting together a musical variety show.  Often concerts that feature many acts are of a random nature, but he takes care to carefully structure shows which consistently add up to be greater than the sum of their parts.  That was certainly the case with last Friday’s Meaford Summer Concert, the third in this year’s series.

It was an all-female show, a theme designed to support My Friend’s House, a crisis centre for women that serves Meaford and Collingwood.  It’s more fitting, though, to refer to it as an all-exceptional-talent show.  A half dozen acts followed closely on each other and built through the evening.  It had been moved indoors to the Gallery in Meaford Hall because of the rain.  About seventy chairs in the main room were filled and probably 30 more people stood in the adjoining room where the bar had been opened for the occasion.  That was an ideal setup, allowing them to talk and enjoy a drink while people in the main room were completely absorbed in the show.

It began with Sequoia Koop, a diminutive 8-year-old singer that Chris discovered at an open stage.  She was typically a little kid, looking down most of the time, wandering away occasionally from the microphone, and distracted at one point by an itch on her back.  But her delivery of the songs she did never faltered and were beautifully delivered with emotion, and dynamics, not once losing her pitch.    It’s always the sign of a great singer when you notice the song more than the performance, and her rendition of Allessia Cara’s “Beautiful” brought out the true meaning of the song.

Eden Young followed with a short set that compensated for the technical difficulties that marred her set at the first concert of the season, and this time her beautiful singing voice came through clearly.

Amanda Dorey is an accomplished vocalist with a large local following, and with good reason.  She did a wonderful pairing of Dolly Parton’s classic “Jolene”, in which she pleads with Jolene not to take her man “just because you can”, followed by Jennifer Nettles’ answer, “I Don’t Want To Be That Girl”, in which Jolene explains that she was tricked into sleeping with the guy who didn’t let on that he wasn’t free.  And then Amanda followed with Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush”, about a woman who is obsessed by another woman because she has the love of a man this woman wants.  Those three songs are such clever and insightful stories from a woman’s perspective, they were perfectly fitted to a night like this, and I don’t think there is anyone anywhere who could have done them better than Amanda Dorey.  Interestingly, for her fourth song, she chose to sing “Royals” by Lorde, which made it the third Lorde song done that night.  Eden Young had sung two other Lorde songs, explaining that she had been listening to her album all week and was stuck on her (kind of like a girl crush?).

Chris explained that he discovered the next act at an open stage as well, proving that the open stages which are so prolific around our area often offer the best show in town.  This was a duo called Hunnay, and they were captivating with original songs that sparkled with wit and a delivery that had the audience in the palm of their hands.  A full concert of Hunnay would still seem too short.  Their harmonies are thrilling.

And if the show had ended there, the audience would have gone home satisfied but, incredibly, the best was still to come.

I had spent some time listening to Jenie Thai’s debut CD, “Only The Moon” and was captivated by the sad longing of her voice and her songs.  I was ready to hear more of that, but when she came out with her backing band, it was a different Jenie Thai that I heard.  She sang just one song from her CD, the happy song from that collection.  And every other song in Friday night’s performance was bursting with joy.  She hopped and bopped behind the keyboard, exchanging grins with her outstanding band through two sets of dynamite blues romps.  It was a joyous treat for everyone there, and especially it seemed for the band, which just kept getting hotter with every song.  To see a performance of this quality in the intimate setting of the Meaford Hall Gallery was a special treat.

Between sets, Victoria Yeh displayed her amazing violin pyrotechnics with multiple layers via the looper and sonic seasonings from the wah-wah pedal.

It was the best show of the series so far, which has been consistently amazing.  It’s incredible that concerts like this are free on a Friday night in Meaford.

There’s only one left this summer, in two weeks, featuring the great pop stylist, songwriter Tom Barlow on August 25th.  The youth contribution this time will be from Greg Smith, who has already established himself in the past year as both a performer and as a show promoter as well (he has put together the concert series at The Barn which continues this Saturday with Culture Reject and Jake Feeney).

The other opening band at the final concert will be the newly minted Horseshoes & Hand Grenades featuring Chris Scerri, Jayden Grahlman, Jon Zaslow, Johnny Roy & Beaker Granger.  These guys all play in other bands (Jayden was the featured guitarist in Higher Funktion, the headlining band at the last Summer Concert, and Chris is…well, you know).  This band is another example of Chris Scerri’s ability to put together a great assembly of talent.  There may be other players equal to these guys in our talent-rich area, but there is nobody better.

See you there, bring your chair.

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