Ben Wilkins concert review



There’s clearly a mistake between Mark’s and my name but a good review none the less. Check it out here:

Jane Ehrhardt and Ben Wilkins: Two Canadian shows make for one fine evening

by Mark Lindenberg

July 1, Canada Day, and there were big celebrations going on in Québec City: Birthday cake on the Dufferin Terrace, and fireworks on the Plains of Abraham, with crowds of people in attendance. My wife and I chose instead to mark the country’s birthday with a smaller group of people in a more intimate setting: Arts Alive! Québec’s presentation of Ben Wilkins in the city’s Morrin Centre.

Jane Ehrhardt started things off with a solo, 45-minute opening set just after 8 pm. Opening with a few songs on an electric piano/keyboard, her lyrics evoked her love for Québec City or, for another song, “Richard”, described a non-interaction at a house party. She told the audience a little about the genesis of the latter song’s lyrics. Before playing “Running Dry”, she described the process of making the video for it, among painters, painting in a studio.

Accompanying her own vocals on the guitar for one or two songs, I could hear a folk tinge in Ehrhardt’s sound. When she went back to the keyboard, I could distinguish a jazz influence in her style. At times, I was struck by the feeling that her songs were intensely felt and very personal.

Ehrhardt’s between-song patter was mostly in French, though she sang in English or French. I would have appreciated knowing the title of each song, a minor quibble taking nothing away from the fact that she consistently touched listeners with her melodic, sometimes melancholy poetry.

Ben Wilkins then took the stage, on keyboards, accompanied by Mark Wheaton on bass guitar and Alex Lefebvre on drums, a good, solid jazz trio. Like Ehrhardt’s before him, Wilkins’ stage patter was in French, but many songs had English lyrics.

In contrast to Ehrhardt’s set, many of Wilkins’ song lyrics seemed to deal in a more abstract way with youthful hope, minor cynicisms, and the small joys of life. Lefebvre played drums with a light touch when necessary, and considerable energy when called upon to do so. On the bass guitar, Wheaton laid an excellent foundation for Wilkins’ piano-playing. Wilkins’ skill was evident, though he might have turned the volume down a little, during his bandmates’ solos.

The music was at times up-tempo, with a great beat, but at one point in the course of the evening, I got as mellow as the music and found it almost meditative.

In hindsight, I find the show’s low-key nature rather Canadian. Only after arriving home from an unassuming show and undertaking a bit of research for this review did I come to have a greater sense of these performers (Jane Ehrhardt included) as musicians with some experience and background. They had chops. That was obvious to the assembled listeners. The only pity? That there weren’t more people there to hear them.

Walking to the bus stop after the show, a bit of rain in the air, I was glad to have recognized Canada Day not with the dazzle of fireworks, but with the discovery of different voices.