071006 Rickie Lee Jones/Sam Roberts, Ottawa, ON

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On July 10th, 2006 I only made it to City Hall in time for the headlining slot at Bluesfest, though I certainly made the most out of an evening that ended up getting truncated on both sides.  It was a Monday night so I had been stuck at work teaching guitar (the Bluesfest would soon do away with Monday night shows but ’twas little advantage to me as I would soon be doing away with teaching guitar lessons) and a cloudy sky encouraged me to drop my bike at home and walk to the fest, so I stepped onsite the very moment that Sam Roberts stepped onstage.

He was touring his second album at the time but he was brand-new to me.  My notes from the day say things like “next big thing” and “great arena-rock anthems” so Sam obviously impressed me.  Little did I know that he had cleaned up at the Junos after releasing his first album two years earlier.  However I was pretty on-the-ball when my notes had predicted that “…these guys might just cost a heck of a lot more money to bring back next year…”  They did get booked back in the following year and since the new record had gone double-platinum in Canada I doubt they played it for less money.

The fact that I spent half of such a great set at a completely different stage proves how interested I was in seeing Rickie Lee Jones.  It was a bit jarring to bounce back-and-forth between Roberts’ balls-to-the-walls rock & roll show and Jones’ smoky nightclub vibe but it was worth it.  I just couldn’t bring myself to miss such a singular and exquisitely professional singer like Rickie Lee Jones.  Her set begged for a dimly-lit cocktail lounge but even on a grassy pitch under a broad and brooding sky her intensity made the concert feel like an intimate performance.  If she did show her age a little bit it didn’t interfere with the exuberance that she put behind every note she sang.  It’s so great to see someone that could be simply gigging victory laps around the festival circuit still playing with such verve and conviction.  She did end her set a little early blaming the misting rain that had begun to fall, though not until after finally giving the audience her signature song, Chuck E’s In Love, a tune she wrote when she was dating the great Tom Waits.

The rain did get rather intrusive but it was pretty close to closing time anyway so by the time I completed my last stage-bounce back to Sam Roberts things had already wrapped up.  All that was left for my night was a soggy stroll home, a late-late supper, and typing notes that I could refer to some fifteen years later when writing this story.

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