Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans @ Aeolian Hall
By: Amanda Lewis
When I found out that Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans Band were going to be playing London (sans singer/songwriter/guitarist John Samson) I scrambled for tickets. The Weakerthans tour fairly frequently, but their recent collaboration with Bryson, The Falcon Lake Incident, has lived on my turntable since I picked it up a month ago. More importantly, Bryson is one of the most underrated and hardest working musicians in Canada, considering his work producing, writing, singing and playing both solo and with artists like country crooner Kathleen Edwards, and this was an opportunity to see him live. I didn't know either of the two opening acts, but it turns out I wasn't going to be disappointed.
Aeolian Hall is a beautiful venue. The first performer, Daniel Ledwell, took full advantage of the open lip of the stage and the vaulted ceiling, singing his folksy, beard-and-flannel in the woods songs as quietly as possible. The size of the sound belied his minimal setup of his voice and acoustic guitar, and vocally he sounded like New York alt-country rocker Ryan Adams on his best night. It's a shame, then, that Ledwell seemed so disinterested in playing. He spent most of his set making jokes about the talk-radio coming from his monitor, his poor memory, and his inability to keep track of how long he's been on stage (at which point a he got a well-timed cane from the Aeolian staff).
Ledwell came back out with Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans Band later that night. Luckily he wasn't given the spotlight and the set rolled on in a timely fashion. Bryson and the Weakerthans boys were consummate professionals. Each song was perfectly planned and rehearsed. Bryson conducted jammy sections of various songs by giving the rest of the band his index finger, but all of their solos seemed to lack much spontaneity. Even short covers of CCR's "Proud Mary" and Cher's "Believe" seemed somewhat stilted. While the entire band looked to be having fun, I wonder if maybe they had practiced the cherry off their performance. I was, however, excited by a heartfelt, midset Kathleen Edwards cover. The main act was a slick package, good but not amazing, and certainly not the highlight of the night.
That highlight came in the form of Attack in Black's Daniel Romano and his backing singer, Misha Bower. Considering the headliner, and Romano's mustard-colored Sadies-esque suit, I expected some sort of up-tempo punk/country act to contrast Ledwell's weepy tunes of love and loss. What I was not expecting was soulful, roots inspired songs and a backing vocal reminiscent of Lucinda Williams. The tunes were generally a little slower, but captured the style of 50's country perfectly. Romano's voice was slightly nasally and far from perfect, but, in truth, it was the unpolished parts of his performance that made me buy the whole act so wholeheartedly.
Romano's set was painfully short but his songs were the most memorable of the night. I came to this show a fan of Jim Bryson and The Weakerthans, but I left singing "Missing Wind" and "She Was the World to Me." The show, as a whole, was really enjoyable, but I wonder if Daniel Romano and Misha Bower should have been the night's headliner. I'll definitely be catching them if they roll back through London again.
Video: “Somewhere Else“ by Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans
Video: “She Was the World to Me“ by Daniel Romano