There’s no doubt that recent Boston Music Award winner Melissa Ferrick has a legion of devoted fans in Vancouver. Whether from Main Street, the Drive, the Davie Village, or scattered around the rest of the Lower Mainland, the queer ladies (and their friends and lovers) who come in droves to experience her music never leave disappointed.
Except, perhaps, by the opening band. In this case, Vancouver’s The No No Spots were out of their element, and it showed. Not only was the crowd disinterested in their particular breed of flat hipster-esque electro-pop but the band itself hardly seemed willing to make an effort. The first words out of frontwoman Adrienne’s mouth were grumblings about the choice of Ferrick’s fans to remain casually seated instead of rushing eagerly to the stage, saying “it sucks”. Later in the unimpressive set, amidst the placating applause, she paused to remark that the lack of people dancing in the middle of the room was “what’s fucking wrong with this city”. Perhaps what is actually wrong is that bands like The No No Spots don’t appreciate the opportunity to play to a new crowd in a full venue, and insult them instead of working for their affection. Because let me tell you, there was a lot of affection floating around that room waiting for the headliner to appear.
In spite of the mood set by The No No Spots, Melissa Ferrick charmed and amazed old and new devotees alike. On the road to promote her new album In The Eyes Of Strangers, Ferrick has added a backing drummer and keyboardist to the mix with resounding success. Darren Hahn and Val Opileski added power and depth to an already electric performance, and yet were never the main focus: all eyes were unvaryingly on the alluring tomboy at the mic. Ferrick commanded the room with passionate vocals and intense guitar manipulation. Her confidence on stage has increased dramatically since last visiting Vancouver, and her anecdotes about song origins, love, giving a barista a six dollar tip in toonies (“we [Americans] think it’s just change”), or telling border guards that she was coming to Canada to sell her body, rounded out the performance into something entertaining and memorable.
The songs from In The Eyes Of Strangers carried on in the same vein as 2004’s The Other Side. Although the opening number, “Inside”, contained such clumsy metaphors as “I can’t wait to take a drink from the waterfalls of my memories”, the performer stunned the crowd time and time again with the speed and force of her playing. Not one for predictability, Ferrick also played a couple of covers including, “Give it Away” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, stating “That’s my Irish funk”. She also described one of her new tracks as “tending a bit towards the Morrissey”, and precluded it with a couple of teasing lines from songs by The Smiths.
The encore took the room to a new place with Drive, a song that has become a queer women’s anthem of erotica, with a masterful wah-acoustic extended intro. With lyrics that provoked the statement that “anywhere where there are kids with face paint on, I’m not going to play Drive” Melissa Ferrick proved that there is nothing stereotypical about her or her version of folk music.