Jun 2, 2010

Emily Haines @ Sydney Opera House

It was brief, felt brief. But it was damn special. As part of Vivid Sydney, Emily Haines was invited by curators Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson to perform a special show at the Sydney Opera House. Her mission was to re imagine songs writen for her popular band Metric, which were performed by Emily (sometimes on a classical Steinway piano) and a string quartet. In the end it all worked, better then I even expected. For just on 50 minutes Emily charmed and serenaded us, her mystical voice being the perfect equation to the backing of strings.

I have always admired Emily Haines. From her work with Broken Social Scene, her wonderful voice and her dynamic and forthright personality I have found her to be an intriguing subject. Of course her band Metric has gained immense popularity and I like them too. But I would be the first to admit that I am a solid fan, rather then a gushing one. They write tight, concise pop/rock songs that are very easy to digest. So I was very interested to discover how those songs would play out last night. I am happy to say that it was a great success. Especially considering the logistics of adapting the songs to a new format. Hence the brevity of the night I would say. Thankfully Emily was able to call upon the skills of Todor Kobakov who not only designed all the string arrangements but also was on stage to provided muted beats and ambient tones for the night. The string quartet was comprised of two violins, a viola and a cello. Assembled at short notice they were totally wonderful, providing rich texture and delicate tones to the songs performed. But the star was Emily. Her voice is a distinct weapon, tender and forthright. Initially she seemed quite cold and distant, as through the first three songs she didn't utter a word. But in turn I would now say she was just focused and intense. Because she opened up later and proved herself to be charming and conversational. The girl called her serene. I think that would be an apt and fitting description. A highlight was actually her reading a portion from one of her late father's poems. It was a tender and moving moment when she read from the pages of Paul Haines. Musically I was in love with the glowing "Twilight Galaxy" and the sweetness and light of "Gimme Sympathy". Besides the 7 Metric songs she also performed a Buffalo Springfield song in honour of fellow Canadian Neil Young. Then she closed with the magnificent "Help I'm Alive". This great song became even more impressive when performed on a bare piano with ethereal strings. This was a surprising night. Something quite unique. My feelings going in were one of hope. Going out I felt nothing but joy.

Set List
Blindness
Satellite Mind
Gold Guns Girls
Twilight Galaxy
Expecting To Fly (Buffalo Springfield cover)
Collect Call
Gimme Sympathy
Help I'm Alive

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