Lawrence House Sarnia

Paul Langille at the Lawrence House: Friday May 12, 2017 by Brian Hay Paul Langille put his extraordinary prowess with the acoustic guitar on display almost instantly with an instrumental introduction that left the crowd in the Lawrence House breathless. Along with that, a few offhand (or better yet, “off-the-wall”) quips and the banter that introduced the performance of his number, ‘A Drinkin’ Song, showed that fun and games were front and centre on the agenda. Between those bookends, an almost heart-breaking reading of his ballad, ‘Broken’ (from his CD ‘Pine and Locke’), cast an alternate image that hinted at the immense depth behind the face the man has on stage. Other points, the bittersweet aspects behind the uproarious humour in ‘Drinkin’ Song’ (for instance) and the all-encompassing accuracy contained in even his most acerbically funny observations, revealed an artist who finds his bread and butter in all parts of the spectrum. Add his great delivery and immense knowledge to the deal and his shows become riveting for any kind of a thinking man’s audience. The fact that he takes political incorrectness to spectacular levels doesn’t hurt either. Hearing “Cat’s in the Blender, with Oregeno” and “Teddy-Bears’ Picnics” provided side-splitting breaths of fresh air (to say the absolute least). Paul had lots to say between songs about many things, including the virtues of Canadian content and our astuteness in sending out most annoying exports packing to Vegas*, and always did so with a combination of humour and warmth that’s hard to match. While playing songs he combined virtuosity and expression with panache that can only be described as dazzling. Verbal asides came whenever they happened, which was generally when or wherever they were least expected, and often in the form of what was least expected. An instance of that was when the linguistically softer term “musical trollop” (rather than something else) came on the heels of a raunchier episode. It kept the audience riveted. His opening set was fabulous, and seemed as if it would be hard to top but the second half made the first look pale. Part of it may have been seeing the crowd recognized the tongue-in-cheek nature of his work (and the even more important realization nobody’d be following him to his car with a baseball bat to “discuss” these things) but, whatever the reason, he went into the closing set ready to cut loose. The spoofs on folk-songs (for those who can’t figure out “Cat’s in the Blender”) and Children’s pieces (about monster Teddy Bears) were only part of the fun. A cover of a beautiful song by Willie P. Bennett (‘Lace And Pretty Flowers’ I believe) returned the proceedings to an introspective mindset. A boldly extroverted and hilariously funny cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big YellowTaxi’ came through like an explosive charge laced with self-effacing humour — if there’s ever been an illustration of “Look! I can shred too. See!” with self-contained eye-rolls included, it’s likely not been put on the books. A more subdued delivery was given to Paul’s closing number (which I can’t recall the title of) and it marked a close to a show that combined humour and poignant thought with exceptional musicianship and the ability to craft a show well. The music played ran from familiar to obscure. Technology was used but kept to a minimum and (inevitably) not spared from a skewering. Valleys built to peaks. Awareness of his audience was always in evidence (and illustrated nicely when a person’s stepping out was followed by “Was it something I said?”). The exquisite acoustic of the Lawrence House lent itself to Paul’s work nicely, a point he noted more than once. It was a great show, or as host Missy Burgess accurately put it, “A two-hundred dollar concert for ten bucks. * The annoying exports were named at the show but they’re not being named here. Curious ones will just have to go to Paul’s performances to find out who they are.

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