August 2006

(formerly Jane Siberry)
August 2, 2006Hugh's RoomToronto
Issa Performs at Hugh’s Room
by Molly Anthony with photo by Roger Humbert
I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into Hugh’s room Wednesday night. The sign outside advertised “Issa” but the picture was of Jane Siberry — the result of a very recent name and lifestyle change for one of Canada’s most interesting singer-songwriters.

Inside the club and later on, as this newly-named woman my mother’s age approached the stage to low, prerecorded nature sounds in the background, maybe others in the room were wondering what to expect as well. But whether you knew her as Issa or Jane: after 18 albums, Madonna-like reincarnations, 2 books of poetry, starting up her own record label, collaborations with Brian Eno and K.D. Lang, writing songs for major motion pictures and television, teaching university science classes by verse and meditation, and recently, pioneering a pay-as-you-wish policy for her music through her website, the night promised to be different.

She walked to the mic purposely, poised and beautiful in green and gold brocade, giant hoop earrings, and lopsided buns, braids and ponytails. Quietly thanking us for coming she began to tell us our story, of how we came over dusty trails and many days to arrive here, pointing out to the soundtrack the things we were seeing along this last stretch. And as the animal noises quieted down and water sounds began, she burst into this perfect song about Paddling.

Complete with J stroke arm motions, she held the room totally captive for the rest of the night. She would take the audience through loosely woven, funny narratives in between songs (informing us Presbyterian is an anagram for Britney Spears; announcing she’d like to play us her next big hit, before launching into a love song from the perspective of a frog), and sometimes even during a piece: at one point taking a few long moments to tune her guitar, but telling the audience to hang on … it was going to be worth it.

And it was. The former Jane is an extraordinary entertainer, unexpectedly switching from spoken word to song, sampling different genres and tempos, easing between the keyboard, and her electric guitars. All the while she would be dropping sharp and off-kilter observations about the human condition, and answering questions from the audience about why she just sold her house, and gave away everything she owned (for a more direct relationship with her music).

Equally unpredictable musically, she sang childlike clear and achingly sweet one minute, and the next, belted out in perfect bar pitch what you do with a Drunken Sailor. Beyond the Joni Mitchell type folksy guitar numbers, Tori Amos like keyboard pieces, and surreal Moog tracks that she would sing over, she performed unquestionably unique, deeply poignant and poetic music — about the geeky, eighth grade "Boy Who Got Away" or a sweet dream in which her family was wholly holy. About trust and letting go. And somehow it all related, it all flowed. It was a great show.

At the end, and as the nature soundtrack began to play again, Issa loaded everyone back on the canoe and said thank you and goodbye. A completely whimsical and entertaining night, it was clear how this woman with a vision had earned and achieved what few artists dare to dream about: total control of their creative work. Absolutely worth seeing wherever / however you can catch her.
We welcome your comments and feedback
• • • • • •
Molly Anthony
• •
Roger Humbert
The Live Music Report

| Home | Archives | CD Reviews | Photo Galleries | Concert Listings | Contact |

Please contact us to secure permission for use of any material found on this website.
© The Live Music Report – 2006