Published Date: 2009/4/6 0:00:00
Article ID : 6486
Allison Crowe took a break at Long Beach Saturday afternoon before a nighttime concert in Ucluelet. (Keven Drews Photo)
By Tom Mureika
UCLUELET — More than 70 people had the chance to see one of Canada’s hottest talents at two performances in Ucluelet and Tofino this weekend.
Crowds gave standing ovations to singer-songwriter Allison Crowe who delivered two blistering concerts at the Clayoquot Sound Community Theatre Friday night and the Ucluelet Secondary School Band Room Saturday night.
The concerts were given in support of the Westcoast Community Resources Society.
Crowe showcased her powerhouse vocal abilities right off the top when she launched into a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel #2,” a cover that would make the Canadian folk icon proud.
Crowe told the Westcoaster.ca the concerts were the first time she had performed the song, making the opener all the more impressive.
Crowe was then joined by band mates Billie Woods (on acoustic guitar and backing vocals), David Baird (on bass and backing vocals) and Laurent Boucher (on drums) as she continued into a dynamite set of her originals.
With her vocals and virtuoso piano work, Crowe evokes an early Tori Amos, while many of her melodies are reminiscent of Ani DiFranco or Sarah McLachlan (only not quite so ethereal).
Her delivery is so compelling that one senses this is an artist on the verge of an imminent major mainstream breakthrough.
Whether playing solo with her piano or with her backing musicians, Crowe carries a dynamic stage presence – she is at once commanding and enrapturing. And whether performing her own material or cover songs, she has a voice and sound that are distinctly her own.
Crowe also maintained a thoroughly endearing rapport with the audience throughout the evenings.
“How many of you were here last time I played here?” joked Crowe. “I just wanted to know if anybody remembered me saying I was engaged – because I’m not.”
In a conspiratorial whisper, Crowe added, “It was all fake… I am currently dis-engaged.”
Crowe used the segue to launch into a smoldering cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” which she played on acoustic guitar with a breathless urgency that made the song all her own.
She immediately followed the number with a tour de force original, “Disease,” that saw her give the baby grand she was playing a wonderfully discordant workout.
Crowe is easily the most talented singer-songwriter to burst on the scene in quite some time.
Her unique stylings, incredible range of delivery, songwriting chops and knack for interpreting cover tunes sets her apart from her peers and makes one wonder why this songstress has not yet been discovered by the mainstream.
Crowe held her audience like a pro, her witty banter between songs making it impossible for the audience not to fall in love with her. And every song was met with increasingly uproarious applause from an enthusiastic audience.
This is an artist who is comfortable in many genres, which is really saying something.
It takes major courage to attempt to cover the artists in Crowe’s repertoire – and she did so flawlessly.
There are very few performers of her caliber working today, and Crowe neatly distinguished herself from her contemporaries in surprising ways as the night went on.
Crowe closed out the set by breathing new soul into Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You” (which Crowe introduced as one of her personal favorite songs) before meeting with a standing ovation and demand for an encore.
The band rejoined Crowe for a John Sebastian cover (“Darling Be Home Soon”) – exhibiting her enormous range of styles and her immense versatility – before Crowe closed the night single-handedly with her cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Not only did the song bookend the evening beautifully (complementing her opening with a Cohen cover), but Crowe revealed that “Watchmen” film director Zack Snyder had considered her version of the song for use in that film, but found it “too beautiful and too sexy.”
Which is a perfectly apt metaphor for Crowe’s music.
Beautiful, sexy and sensual, Crowe takes the singer-songwriter template laid down by artists like Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco and lifts it to her own level.
There were even times when her compositions came across like a modern day Carole King.
This is an astonishingly gifted artist working in a class by herself. The fact that she could keep 35 people on the edge of their seats is merely indicative of what she could do with theatres or even arenas one day.
The Nanaimo-raised Crowe currently resides out of Newfoundland, though her music is universal and timeless.
In a world of copycats and wannabes in the singer-songwriter field, Crowe is a true original and is playing in a league of her own.
A sensational live performer and studio artist, Crowe knows how to work a crowd into a frenzy – and the fact that she makes it look so effortless is just part of the charm.
Crowe’s guitarist (and album cover photographer), Billie Woods, opened the evening with a 20-minute set of acoustic originals from an album on which she is currently working.
Woods’ own music was also compelling and set the stage beautifully for Crowe’s performance.
Crowe’s manager, Adrian du Plessis, introduced the artist by saying that Ucluelet and Tofino were among their favorite places to play.
The WCRS’ executive director Margaret Morrison introduced the Ucluelet evening by informing the audience that they were in for a treat.
“Last night, my face practically melted off,” she exclaimed.
The fact that Allison Crowe delivered on that promise is just an indicator of her extraordinary talent and of the enormously bright future that lies ahead for this gifted young artist.
One can only wait until next year for Crowe to return to the peninsula once again…
Crowe has six CDs available for purchase from her website, Allison Crowe Dot Com!