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"Crowd cheers for Crowe and youthful company"
Mitchell Sherrin, Staff Writer, Gulf Islands Driftwood
October 29, 2003

An awestruck audience was wowed by the soaring winged vocals and dynamic thundering piano work of Allison Crowe at an ArtSpring concert Saturday.

But a new crop of freshly seeded local talent threatened to steal Crowe’s show in the opening set.

The “miniature Lilith Fair” evening opened with a charming performance by nine-year-old vocalist Sarah Robinson accompanied by sprightly piano playing from her 13-year-old sister Megan.

The Robinson duo received whoops and cheers for their winning performance, but then YJP’s Devan Banman added drums to a bluesy jazz number to give the girls an even stronger punch.

Soloist Julia Beattie shared a Laundromat-inspired song that knitted a cool lyrical rinse with spin-cycle urgency to highlight her vocal range and stylistic songwriting.

Like Banman and the Robinsons, Beattie will be a talent to watch out for. She also performs with a band and recently released The Orchid Room CD.

 Another combo of talented sisters dazzled the crowd as Billie and Brittney Woods sang Brazilian jazz tunes accompanied by Billie’s guitar.

The duo was led by Billie who lingered lovingly over each Portuguese syllable after a recent visit to South America. Given Billie’s convincing accent and passion for the music, the two girls invoked the romantic spell of an exotic transcontinental visit.

Local songwriter Stacy Burke will be another artist to look out for in upcoming shows. Her first lonesome-vocal piece, Stay, rippled like cool green wheat, while a second untitled song showed she could fill the bill for any band’s vocalist-wish list.

Just when it seemed like local talent must have reached its peak, Mayne Islanders Zoe Guigeno and Marlies Iredale met up with fellow Gulf Islands Secondary School student Lindsay Bryan to cook up an amazing set of original tunes.

A hallucinatory folk funk piece composed by Iredale for the Saturday show was well worth attending the event on its own.

Accompanied by Guigeno on backing lyrics and dreamy bass, Iredale blasted insistent jazzy piano riffs and let loose with clever lyrics and richly textured songwriting of her mature composition.

Guigeno switched to saxophone as Bryan joined the duo with guitar to add sparks to Iredale’s song Highway.

Ironically, the girls sang about how they “tried so hard to make (them)selves known.” But after one more performance with a few more songs to their set, islanders may have to clamber over scalpers to get tickets for future gigs.

Another piece written by Bryan, called Shy, added a rockish rhythm to the girls’ talents that should convince anyone to buy their CD as soon as they print one.

During the intermission audience members were left wondering whether Crowe might have unwisely raised the bar a little too high with such a potent mix of performers during the warm-up set.

Fortunately, the confident resonance of Crowe’s singing in her opening song, Hallelujah, cast all doubts aside. Lesser buildings would have collapsed under the emotive onslaught of her voice.

Accompanied by Dave Baird on stand-up bass and Kevin Clevette on drums, Crowe mixed gems of her own songwriting with covers of Leonard Cohen, Keith Richards and Janis Joplin to create an eclectic combination of musical styles that highlighted her dynamic range.

The 21-year-old Nanaimo-based singer songwriter thinks of Salt Spring as a second hometown after she performed one of her first major gigs as an opener for Tara MacLean at ArtSpring three years ago, said Crowe’s manager and event organizer Adrian du Plessis.

“I love Salt Spring, it’s so nice. Serenity now,” Crowe giggled.

While the singer maintained bubbly banter between songs, her rich writing and radiant voice lifted listeners to the rafters with lyrical love songs like Montreal and the feverish pitch of the break-up survivor piece Hooray.

A solo of Jewel’s Who Will Save Your Soul left the audience stunned with the delightful ecstasy of Crowe’s sustained singing.

Her voice seared brain synapses with raw power and then lapped ice-cream smooth for soft breathy seductions.

The microphone died just before Crowe launched into Pearl Jam’s Jeremy but the soundman didn’t even seem to notice a loss of quality since her unadorned voice still filled the theatre so majestically.

It was challenging to take notes for a review. I sat slack-jawed through songs such as Misdirected (Disease), Be Yourself and Alive and Breathing, without writing a word. I didn’t want to strip my attention away from the pure experience of the moment to keep notes.

To be honest, I didn’t want to share. I greedily gobbled up every note of her performance. And I refused to listen to any other music for the remainder of the weekend so I could savour the last little morsels of the memory.

Fortunately, I won't have to wait too long for another Crowe performance. Once the recent experience has dimmed, I will still have her new CD. Lisa's Song, ready to pop open for a fresh blast of her roof-raising rhythm and grunge blues.