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Jill Barber performs during the East Coast Music Awards at the Metro Centre in Halifax in 2007. (Reuters)
Jill Barber performs during the East Coast Music Awards at the Metro Centre in Halifax in 2007. (Reuters)

Music: Concert review

Jill Barber brings a songstress's grace to the stage Add to ...

Jill Barber

  • At Glenn Gould Studio
  • In Toronto on Saturday

A pleasant enough diversion happened Saturday at Glenn Gould Studio, where bygones were remembered and moonlit music was elegantly made.

The Vancouver-based chanteuse Jill Barber and her five-piece band recreated jazzy-classy pre-rock sounds, with lyrical themes of romance, dreams and spells that leave one helpless. At times the willowy Barber, in a sparkly party dress and with her hair set high, seemed a bit sweetly mannered – possibly a persona was at work when it came to her soft banter between songs.

Which isn’t to say the singer isn’t delightful enough naturally. With her trademark wavering coo and graceful presence – a ballerina's poise at times – she offered a distraction from pressing concerns and things loud or busy or plain. She mostly presented lush material from her period-set albums (including this year's Mischievous Moon), with covers of Leonard Cohen, the Everly Brothers and Charles Aznavour ( Plus bleu que tes yeux) too.

The standouts:

Chances: The title track to Barber’s well-received 2008 album opened the concert, the second of her two sold-out appearances. A swaying, saccharine ballad about romantic kismet sets the Doris Day mood.

A Wish Under My Pillow: A coquettish ditty, performed with Barber and her fine band gathered around a single microphone, highlighted by a lip-whistle solo.

Took Me By Surprise: Cocktail bossa nova, with breezy “la-la-la” fills that recall the Carpenters, a sibling act from the seventies.

All I Have to Do Is Dream: The serene pop classic by the Everly Brothers is presented as a duet, with singer-songwriter Mathew Barber joining his sister on stage. You’d have to think that these two won a talent contest or two in their youth.

Dance Me to the End of Love: A cabaret-jazz rendition of Cohen’s bittersweet song about passion closes the show. “Raise a tent of shelter now,” Barber sings, “though every thread is torn.” An evening of romantic music from another time is Barber’s shelter to her audience, offered warmly.

Jill Barber plays London, Ont. Tuesday; St. Catharines, Ont., Wednesday; Guelph, Ont., Friday; Alliston, Ont., Saturday; with Western dates to follow ( www.jillbarber.com/tour-dates.html ).

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