Saturday night I went to New York City’s Webster Hall to see Kathleen Edwards, a Canadian singer-songwriter whose new album, Voyageur, is a must-get. She also happens to be the girlfriend of GRAMMY-winner Justin Vernon, the mastermind behind Bon Iver.
Here are the highlights from the show, in descending order:
1. Edwards recited a hilarious scene that went down directly before her show. She said she was walking to nab some frozen yogurt—“the kind you design yourself,” she said, “with toppings and stuff”—when she overheard a couple queuing for the gig outside the venue. "There she is,” they said. The dude then turned to the girl and asked, “Do you think she says, ‘I love you Bon Iver'?” He even mispronounced the “Iver” in Bon Iver, saying “Hiiiiver.” After telling the story, Edwards addressed the crowd: "Honey, that boy has a size 12 shoe.... I'll call him anything I want." I guess Bon Iver's manhood measures up his skills at chopping wood and living alone in the Wisconsin woods.
2. Midway through another Voyageur gem, Edwards ran offstage for a bathroom break, leaving her two guitarists in an extended duel of riffs. She hurried back onstage soon after: "I didn't even wash my hands!" Now that's dedication. Rock n’ roll: it’s dirty business.
3. Edwards played a poignant cover of the Flaming Lips “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate,” which she dedicated to her best friend who came down from Toronto for the gig. Makes ya realize that the Lips aren’t all silly-string and inflatable gerbil balls.
4. After her performance of “Hockey Skates,” Edwards admitted that, yes, the New York Rangers are indeed better than her home team, the Ottawa Senators. She then led the crowd in a “Let’s go Rangers!!!!” chant.
5. The songs "Mint," "Going to Hell," and "For the Record." It’s all tightly wound, emotive, swelling guitar rock, and all reasons to go buy Voyageur.
6. Her banter: “Xanax is a real f**king awesome thing," she joked after admitting to period of emotional hardship. "You don't know what it's like to give up everything for music.” She seemed genuinely on the verge of tears, in amazement of her recent rise to success as proved by the rapturous crowd. “New York is one of those places that never ceases to amaze me. I never play for more people than I do here."
7. Riff-a-palooza. Edwards writes
intimate singer-songwriter-type tunes, but her six-piece band fleshes them into
swelling epics. The guitar lines fused the nasty fuzz of Crazy Horse with the
ethereal, skyward lines of Sigur Ros. Nice hybrid, dudes!
8. Band love! After Edwards introduced her guitarist, who just had a kid, she gave him a smooch of congratulations. They blasted into the next song, and after she apologized. "It's okay as long as you don't put it on Twitter." Numerous fans replied: "Too late!!!!"
9. After switching between violin, acoustic and electric guitars all night, Edwards grabbed her acoustic for the gentle closing number. A drunk dude who was often overzealously shouting requests and commenting on her stage banter all night, hollered again at Edwards as they started the song: "Turn it up!" he said from the second floor balcony. "It's a quiet song, you asshole," shot Edwards. This singer-songwriter will continue doing things her way, whether you like or not. But I certainly do.