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Jill Barber brings a songstress's grace to the stage

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


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.

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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.

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Jill Barber plays London, Ont. Tuesday; St. Catharines, Ont., Wednesday; Guelph, Ont., Friday; Alliston, Ont., Saturday; with Western dates to follow ( ).

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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