December 2008

Noah Zacharin
December 6, 2008 Free Times Café Toronto
Noah Zacharin Wows the Crowd at the Free Times Café
by Laura Fernandez with photo by John Travis
Toronto guitarist, singer and songwriter Noah Zacharin played his first full length concert in two years on Saturday, Dec. 6th at the Free Times Café on College St. Zacharin has spent the better part of those two years touring extensively through Canada, the US, and the UK. promoting his most recent CD, Waiting on Your Love.

I have followed Zacharin’s career since my first days at the Free Times in early 2000 and have always been captivated by his superior ability and original and inventive guitar technique, as well as the finely crafted songs and impressive instrumentals he has composed over the years. Zacharin is also a published poet, and when he applies this gift to the art of song the result is nothing short of breathtaking.

Last night’s concert was certainly in line with my ‘Noah Zacharin’ experience to date and in many ways surpassed my expectations of this mature and gifted artist. When I arrived at about 8:30 the room was already bristling with anticipation. The club’s back room is arguably one of the best for intimate acoustic music in this city. This very month, it is celebrating its 25th year of hosting musical acts.

Noah Zacharin
The crowd was an impressive mix of ages. Many were young musicians who are admirers of Zacharin’s style and frequent his weekly Wednesday jam at the Liberty Bistro. By the time Zacharin took the stage the room was full. Zacharin performed solo and set up his own sound; from the start he struck a perfect balance between guitar and vocals, and the sound was exceptional.

The evening took off with his energetic adaptation of Robert Johnson’s "Sweet Home Chicago" and the audience was immediately captivated. The beautiful and melodic love song "Moon on My Side" and the witty and hopeful "Tom Morrow" followed. It was clear, having seen him perform many times, that he was comfortable and enjoying himself on stage. Bob Dylan’s "Just like Tom Thumb’s Blues" — his own arrangement (and apparently one of his biggest sellers on Itunes) — came next, after which he continued with "Can’t Wake Up", a bluesy number off his Big Daddy Z CD. This he preceded with a humorous monologue about his afternoon nap with his cat. Throughout the evening Zacharin was warm, witty, and charming, and made the gathering feel like an intimate evening in his living room. One of the things I enjoyed most about this concert was the easy exchange he had with the audience and the gentle humility with which he approached each introduction, albeit with a touch of his trademark biting humour.

I have to say the songs from Waiting on Your Love were probably my favourites, ranging from the poignant "Nothing I Can Do" to the sexy and provocative "Convertible Kind" to the romantic and beautiful jazzy "In Love Again". The instrumental nod to Bert Jansch "Chasing After Bert" and the classically inspired "Ten Tons Of Road", demonstrated precision and discipline while gorgeous songs like "In The Heather" and "Reflection" highlighted a quieter and more poetic side. Every so often he would lighten things up with fun arrangements of songs such as "It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie". I found the evening to be perfectly paced, and the song choices varied, taking the listeners through a full range of emotion.

The best thing about Zacharin’s body of work is the wide variety of styles it encompasses, ranging from folk to country to jazz to blues to classical to bluegrass and more. It is clear he is not afraid to experiment and that pushing himself as an artist rather than getting comfortable in one specific area is what propels his work. This may also be why he is still one of Canada’s best-kept secrets. He may be commercially hard to pin down, but I for one prefer to see an artist who is constantly evolving and driving himself to new and uncomfortable heights. Last night’s performance truly reflected his embrace of a wide variety of influences and this meant the show was exciting and always experimental in its approach.

The climax of the night, late in his second 50 minute set, was a superb version of the Allman Brothers’ "Whipping Post" which showed why he has long been considered a guitar master. It was as exciting and edgy a performance as I have ever seen from him. Zacharin closed, as he often does, with Lead Belly’s "Good Night Irene". Calling for audience participation, the entire crowd happily complied by singing along, and they even did their own improvising during his guitar solo, spontaneously whistling along. Thus ended a very classy, entertaining and satisfying concert experience!

Check out Noah Zacharin at www.noahsong.com and www.myspace.com/noahzacharin

We welcome your comments and feedback
Laura Fernandez
• • • • • •
The Live Music Report
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Laura Fernandez is a singer, songwriter, and performer. Laura is also a producer and radio host for JAZZ FM 91, Toronto.

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