Dream Serenade featuring Hayden, Feist, some of the National and more at Massey Hall; Saturday October 25, 2014

Confession: I dropped $80 on a ticket for this show to see member of my favourite band the National for the sixth time this year.

By the end of the evening, my heart was warmed after a super celebration (and ka-ching ka-ching) for the Beverley School… money well spent. This gig was two pronged, it was an organized buskerfest to raise funds for the Beverley School, however it also felt like a celebration of Toronto-based singer Hayden. In Hayden very selflessly calling favours from his friends to support his daughter’s school, he in turn received so much love from his surprising range of friends.

A few years back I learned that Hayden was good pals with the National with this spread in the Grid (RIP). I then saw Hayden hop on stage to sing the National’s closer song on evening two of the three day residency at Massey Hall earlier this year. What surprised me more was his friendly relations with the crummy Toronto band, Billy Talent and Canadian jokers, Barenaked Ladies.

Like many people, I had some reservations about Barenaked Ladies continuing on without Steven Page. I saw them as a little peanut over fifteen years ago at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, ON. I remember that they played the hits and covered Britney Spears, which I assume was big at that time. This gig was no different. Compacted into a micro-mini set of five or six songs, the band played some crowd favourites, such as “Pinch Me” and “If I Had a Million Dollars.” I was surprised to see the band get all 2000+ people in the venue excited with a medley of covers, including Lorde’s “Royals,” Katy Perry’s “Firework,” and Miley Cryrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” but started with a brief homage from the band’s guitarist/piano player, Kevin Hearn’s dedication to the late Lou Reed playing “Take a Walk on the Wild Side.” The band danced and sang in ways most sensible people would not ever dream of doing. They totally got me with this set.

It was almost unbearable to sit through the Billy Talent set. The evening’s announcer CBC personality Pete Morey announced that the band has a forthcoming greatest hits album, which made me want to swallow my tongue. My wincing aside, their set was entertaining. They seemed to be a bit out of place from the other slower acts. The band played a cover of Hayden’s “Bad As They Seem,” which requires tuning that even Hayden has found hard to nail down. Billy Talent frontman Benjamin Kowalewicz for the first verse tried hard to emulate Hayden’s flat, airy sound and released a bit on the subsequent verses to Kowalewicz natural voice.

With each rotating artist, their sets lengthened out a bit. I was pleasantly surprised by Cuff the Duke’s Wayne Petti’s new outfit Grey Lands, which had more energy and grit than his country alter ego. His presence reminded me that Cuff the Duke, years ago, served as Hayden’s back up band. Now he rests close with bassist, Jay McCarrol on bass and Taylor Knox on drums.

Sarah Harmer dazzled. She has her own unique sound that I think sounds Canadian and very full.

Jason Collett played a pile of songs I have never heard of, but there’s also some sort of warm familiarity with all of Collett’s music. I think it’s in the clear delivery and consistent earthy sound in all of his songs. I’m not bored or sick of listening and looking at Jason Collett… I hope he never quits.

Aaron and Matt of the National were perfect. As a heavy weight fan of the National I find it easy to watch them play, what feels like listening to a song you haven’t heard in a while and finding yourself completely at home with it. Periodically throughout the week, I spent time fathoming what the guys would put together – I knew “I Need My Girl” would be in their repertoire and figured some other slow songs would be too. We got:

“Blood Buzz”
“Pink Rabbits””I Need My Girl”
“Terrible Love”
“Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”

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The National boys also played during Hayden’s performance of “Dynamite Walls.” Matt even took the second verse of the tune!

Feist stumbled out very sweetly with Pete Morey’s awkward introduction and took a few moonwalk strides back after she realized he wasn’t ready for her. The audience chuckled with excitement and endearment. Since Feist rise to the queen of the ipods, she’s developed a flare to her live performance. She re-visions the songs that have become household indie standards, it was boring at Field Trip 2013, but dazzling alone. I suspect that the venue played a huge party in making this experience so special. At Field Trip, Feist played a comatose set to a sore-legged bunch. This set we were completely warm and fuzzy from the community vibe of the evening and more importantly we were sitting. Leslie Feist played alone, offering a warm a cappella rendition of “The Circle Married the Line.” She tapped her fingers on the mic while singing to provide a beat for the entirety of the song. She played a beautiful version of “1 2 3 4,” which she declared was a cover of a cover that Canadian pianist Chilly Gonzales gave to her.

IMG_6224After everyone played their bit, all the acts gathered on stage to perform a campfire-esq version of Cat Stevens’ “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out.”

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