Thursday, November 19, 2009

Concert Review : Rose Cousins & Royal Wood at the Media Club

Rose Cousins and headliner Royal Wood put on a fantastic show on November 17, 2009 at the Media Club in Vancouver-- one full of switching roles, great laughs and even greater appreciation of your loved ones.

Halifax-based Rose Cousins, touring her new album The Send Off, began her opening set by the strumming of her guitar and the clear, warm tone of her voice. Well, not completely accurate. She opened her set by commenting on the amount of people surrounded the stage and how it made her feel "popular." And indeed there was a unusually large crowd for an opening set, which consisted of a dedicated base of "Rosebuds," which included Vancouver artists such as Jill Barber, Nat Jay and T Nile. She also thanked Grant Lawrence of CBC Radio 3, who was in the audience, for interviewing her earlier on during the day and heaped praise on the CBCs across Canada.

It wasn't long into her set that the rest of the people in the room were equally captivated by her honest lyrics, perfect (can I say that?) voice and gut-busting banter, which ranged from touchingly personal to hilariously inappropriate. She also accompanied herself for the entire set on keyboards, guitar and mandolin, save the beautiful "All the Time It Takes to Wait" which was accompanied by the "talented and handsome" Royal Wood.

Rose had the attention of the entire crowd in the usually chatty Media Club. Mid-set, she put the audience on the spot by asking for things in a den-- with the crowd yelling things like "chesterfield!" and "Jenga!" and her constructing a vivid image of that idyllic childhood den with her descriptive imagination. She then transitioned into her song "The Dancers" which imagined an elderly ballroom aficionado couple waltzing around this constructed den.

This was not the only time she called out for audience participation, of course. In another great switching of roles, she called out for an audience member "who's good at keeping rhythm" before playing the last song in her set, "Sadie in the Kitchen." I volunteered hesitantly, and soon found myself sharing the stage with Rose accompanying her on the shaker egg. She gladly regaled myself, an audience member, with the spotlight (and microphone!) while she led the rest of the audience in a sing-along, complete with "random vocal projections." The adorable refrain "before bed, before bed, B for bed, B for bed..." was written with her friends' young daughter in mind, and meant to be an "adult children's song" that she composed for said friends' wedding. Her willingness to share the stage and completely engage the crowd in participation recalls the show by her good friend, Joel Plaskett, whom she supported in a Vancouver show in May.

So yes, I'm going to include that in my resume and CV from now on.

Royal Wood took to the stage with guitarist Dean Drouillard inconspicuously, launching into their first of many songs. Playing many songs from his latest The Lost and Found EP as well as his 2005 A Good Enough Day, Royal filled the Media Club with his romantic, melancholy ballads without his usual backing band. And was the show romantic! Couples lined the perimeter of the stage, as well as filling the rest of the venue, while Royal told of the songs inspired by his brother's wedding, his parents' love, his own love and that of his friend's grandparents. In one of the more poignant moments, he told the audience to never settle for less than the reverberating, lifelong love that they deserve, and for which he sings. These touching anecdotes were nicely interspersed in the song-heavy, banter-light set, which included hits "Juliet" and "Don't Fall Apart."

Royal invited Rose back on stage for 2 songs near the end of his set, and wrapped up with an extended, passionate "Acting Crazy (It's a Breakdown)." Before returning on stage for the encore, he seemed confounded by the presence of washrooms where backstage is supposed to be. The Media Club's backstage is actually at the back of the room, and he commented that he wasn't sure whether to enter the men or the women's washroom in order to get there. Matching Rose's incredible sense of humour, he poked fun at the men in the room by encouraging a final sing-along by saying "this is to show your sexual confidence," which of course, got a burst of laughter and the desired louder audience participation.

All in all, the show was a heartwarming experience, and concert goers exited the Media Club with muted smiles, holding their loved ones into the windy, rainy Vancouver night.

For more photos of the show, visit my Flickr set.