Tanika Charles, and the wonder of last-minute show choices

Yesterday, at around 4:15 p.m., my friend called me and asked if I might be willing to see a show that night, as part of the Canadian Songbook series happening at the Rivoli. She was not feeling too well, but she had a pass and so asked if I might want to use it to see the show that would happen right after my class, which ended at 8 p.m.

Having no immediate plans, I decided to take her up on her offer. And so, later that night, I found myself in the back room of the Rivoli, a place transformed for this night. If you’re familiar with the venue, the back room usually has a couple of chairs lining each side, then a raised stage and a pretty open pit-type area. When I walked in, I was baffled for a moment. Whole tables were set out, people were eating dinner back there, and there were a couple of rows of chairs near the back of the room, one of which I took and sat down on.

I found it a little strange that I heard nothing about an opening act and wondered who the opener might be. Turns out, in one of those rare occasions, there was no opening act. The last time I saw a show without an opener was in October of last year, for Jason Collett’s Reckon CD release party that featured a huge cast of rotating musicians included Bahamas, members of Zeus, Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Andrew Cash and so much more.

Anyways, Tanika Charles (and her backup band, which I think is called The Wonderfuls) took the stage to huge cheers and applause from the audience. It’s a sad thing to note, but this is rarely the type of energy audiences give at the shows I usually go to in Toronto. When people are paying a bit more money for a ticket, they obviously seem to come for good times.

Charles went through a couple of original songs, her third one, a pretty nice poppy tune called “Money” mixed in a bit of a cover of Pink Floyd’s song of the same name, with the guitarist supplying the vocals.

Charles also did a cover of Radiohead’s “Nude” a song or two later that made me really feel the need to go and listen to In Rainbows.

And then a song or two later came the most stunning part of the entire night. Charles launched into a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” (a song I didn’t actually know the name of until I just Googled it), and the island beat the band applied to it had the audience swaying and clapping. And then Charles asked someone to come up and sing with her. At first it looked like no one was going to take the bait, but eventually a guy came up on stage.

The idea was apparently to have someone from the audience just sing the chorus with Charles, but the dude knew all the lyrics. And when he began singing, that was when the audience started erupting into cheers. The guy could sing! He had perfect control of his voice, hitting the notes with just as much power as Amy Winehouse herself hit them with. By the end of it, it was as though he had left a legacy for the rest of the show, with Charles every once in a while commenting on him.

Only one more cover happened after that, but I was particularly impressed with Charles’ song “Silly Happy Wild” that was filled with an impossibly joyous ball of energy.

Compared to shows that I usually attend, this one was super, super early. It was all over and done with by about 10:15 p.m., which is sometimes the time that the opening act starts.

Still, it was a very enjoyable show, and especially one that I decided to go to last-minute. If something looks enticing, I say go for it. Lots of good times can be had.

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