Scott Bonnell, Nanaimo Daily News
Friday, November 8, 2002
Twice before I'd heard Allison Crowe; both open-air shows.
So, it was with no small amount of anticipation I - and several hundred more music lovers (and what a broad demographic!) - looked forward to hearing the Nanaimo singer belt out some tunes in the Port Theatre, last Friday night.
I knew what to expect: a tight band backing a voice as big as all outdoors.
As high as expectations were, Crowe blew theatre-goers away with her powerhouse voice, girlish giggles and patter between songs.
Bandmates Dave Baird (upright and fretless bass) and drummer Kevin Clevette backed Crowe on the concert grand.
The group is a bit of a genre-bender, stealing in equal parts from roots, jazz, adult alternative and pop.
And through it all, that voice. Crowe can go from cooing in your ear to full-bore Joplinesque (a fine Me and Bobby McGee) in a blink.
And hold a note? The little hairs on the back of my neck stood up during a knockout version of Jewel's Who Will Save Your Soul.
High, low, loud, soft, sweet, powerful, rich, clear - Crowe has complete control over her amazing vocal talent. In the best tradition of fine singers, she appears effortless while demonstrating breath control that leaves listeners breathless.
But Crowe is more than just a voice. She's a giggler.
To my chagrin, after the first nervous titter, I thought Crowe should maybe work on her between song banter. And then, right after a high ha-ha-ha-ha, the band would launch into a piece and Crowe would transform from giggling girl to serious songbird.
By the third or fourth giggle-fest, I was grinning right along with her and lots of people had joined in the laughter. She'd won us over with disarming ease.
Four encore songs - including a couple after Port Theatre turned on the lights ("so much for dramatic pause," quoth Crowe) - were barely enough to satisfy concert-goers.
Always leave them wanting more. We surely do, Ally.
Opening up for Allison Crowe was Shawnigan Lake's own Jack Connolly.
The kid barely looks old enough to shave, let alone stand solo, center stage in an 800-seat theatre with only an acoustic guitar with a pickup and microphone.
Connolly plays a rootsy-bluesy style, mixing originals and a few covers. As the crowd was looking forward to hearing a local sensation in Crowe, Connolly had a job to do in warming them up.
And he succeeded, not least of all because of his engaging sense of humour, good licks on the guitar and clean, unmannered vocals.
Your critic's biggest concern wasn't with anything Connolly did, but with the fact he was plugged into that powerful Port audio system.
It just doesn't sound right to see a guy strumming six-string and singing earnestly into the mic, but hearing it blaring from a large speaker, 20 feet up the wall and way off axis. It ain't natural.
And one thing the Port Theatre has in spades is a wonderful natural acoustic. Connolly probably would have succeeded just as well if he'd plugged into a small tube amp and speaker.
Remember Jesse Cook's unamplified guitar in the theatre?
Ah, well. Enough carping.
Connolly's all right and a natural performer. Listen for him to play some more gigs around town, perhaps with a small amp/speaker, in a venue that suits his more intimate solo style.