Lisa Leblanc stormed in to a packed house in Ottawa Saturday night at the reputed Zaphod Beeblebrox for the last show in her Canadian Tour. My first exposure to Leblanc was in a let’s say, more formal environment, the National Arts Centre, where she performed during the Jewel of the Junos, the songwriter’s circle. Along side legends Bruce Cockburn and Colin Linden she endeared herself to the crowd with her unassuming yet confidently expressed songs and stories.
Saturday’s show opened with local band Jonathan Becker and the Northfields, a straight ahead rock folk band, plus pedal steel. Becker kicked things off with a song off his recent EP The Way You’ve Aged, in his gruff vocal style, and the night was underway. Becker and his band the Norhtfields went on to deliver a solid succinct set along with familiar banter from their boisterous Bass player.
Leblanc stepped on the stage with her gold glittered guitar, warmly welcomed with frantic cheers from her followers who had filled the dancefloor. Leblanc launched in to Voodoo Woman off of her new album, through Montreal’s Bonsound record label Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen?. She followed that up, by a real crowd pleaser, off of her self titled EP J’pas un cowboy, a song true to her genre of folk trash.
Leblanc warmly greeted the audience, clearly appreciative of the welcome she’d received. “The show will be in frenglish” she announced to the delight of the crowd. People were stomping their feet, right from the first song. The music was loud, it was intense, it was engaging!
The audience was not unfamiliar with this artist, they knew her songs, but they also knew Leblanc’s live show rituals. The audience was along for every step, beginning the songs for her, singing, yelling from the floor, laughing, dancing and clapping along.
Leblanc’s band was tight with time crafted arrangements. That in combination with the haunting melodies, Leblanc’s smoky voice and falsetto lilt, had a way of drawing you in.
For her first banjo number she introduced a traditional folk song, Katy Cruel, which in her words should include at least one of the following elements; alcohol, heartbreak and or loss, this song included all of them. As an Acadian New-Brunswicker, she spoke of her recent pilgrimage, to the southern U.S. through Louisiana, as an important element in her cultural growth. Introduced to the ties between the Acadian and Cajun musical stylings, and a love for that newly discovered music. She spoke with pride of the importance of the traditions of her heritage, and a new kinship with her Cajun cousins south of the border.
At one point we entered the trash folk hair portion of the show. Leblanc clearly influenced by some of the 70’s rock, “cats” with their long hair, guitars and hair rockin back and forth on stage. And Leblanc’s supporting cast, sporting their well-coiffed mustaches well past movember.
Leblanc’s transitions were smooth, changing instruments, from electric to acoustic guitar, from mandolin to banjo. And then another instrument appeared, one prominent in Cajun music, le petit fer, or it’s less sexy term, “The Triangle”. This was for her Louisiana inspired song “Ti-gars” that chronicles the devastation of losing… your car. Leblanc’s band was an extension of herself, their camaraderie was obvious, they were clearly her “chums”, even their road manager/instrument tech at one point on his way off stage wiped her brow for her.
In introducing Leblanc’s huge hit Aujourd’hui, ma vie c’est d’la marde (Today my life is crap), we entered the educational, french immersion portion of the show and we’d be learning some french swear words. Leblanc reminded us of why culture is so important in our world, simply through her honest embrace of it reflected in her songs and stories. Leblanc’s short speech, that she translated, to conclude the evening, showed her love of her life as a working artist. It was a humble appraisal of the fragility (or f#@k’dupness as she put it) of the world today and how lucky we are, to be able to come together and share this evening celebrating life together.
When the show came to a close, complete with a formal bow, the audience was having none of it and cheered, hooted and hollered until the Leblanc and band returned. The troop played another 3 songs including a cover from Fleetwood Mac a favourite band of hers. By the end, the audience were left charmed by Leblanc and her band, we were treated to a memorable evening of true entertainment.
For more information on Lisa Leblanc – http://www.lisaleblanc.ca/
Christophe Elie for Tour Bus Entertainment