The Weakerthans’ opener, the Last Town Chorus, have essentially become Megan Hickey’s solo outlet following the departure of her full-time guitarist in 2004. And last Saturday, Hickey demonstrated she is more than able to handle the band on her own, as she played, joked and jibed with the audience, as well as gave them Canucks updates. With her steel guitar and enchanting country-edged voice, she definitely won over a lot of fans, including me.
But compared to Hickey’s intimate performance, Winnipeg’s Weakerthans seemed rather distant—their straight 15-song, 2-encore (mixed with a couple of “hellos”) performance being more like a CD played live than a proper show. To be fair, the band did pull out some pretty entertaining guitar antics, though, and on the live version of “Sun in an Empty Room,” Stephen Caroll’s keyboards came across as even more profound.
But while bassist Greg Smith—the new guy on the team—was dripping with sweat by the end of the show, singer-songwriter and all-around guru John K. Samson remained mostly stationary. Samson is no doubt a lyrical genius, which may explain his seemingly omniscient Buddha-like smile; however, that Buddha-like stoicism did not give me the chance to peer, if only slightly, into his lyrical genius.
I seemed to have been the only one feeling like a slighted lover, though, as the crowd positively devoured each of Samson’s offerings. Most people were more than happy just to be part of the singalong, already knowing all the words to their one-week-old album. Even those who didn’t yet know them were certainly humming each catchy tune by the end of the night as they filed out into the spitting rain of Granville Street.