Jay Malinowski & the Dead Coast Perform Martel at the Great Hall

Date of show: April 4, 2014

Walking into The Great Hall early on a Friday evening, I was greeted with a low-lit room set up with chairs, each adorned with a flyer for Martel, filling the intimate evening with an air of class and richness. A hush fell over the already entranced audience as Jay Malinowski and the Deadcoast (East Vancouver string trio The End Tree and Patrick Krief of The Dears) entered.

Malinowski’s latest album with the Deadcoast, Martel, is split into two halves – Pacific and Atlantic – and for the most part, his set was similarly divided into what could be called an Act 1 and Act 2. Filled with songs such as the prettily instrumental set opener “Donzoko Blues (April’s Fool)” and “Patience Phipps (The Best of You)”, the often brooding and introspective Pacific first half translated so well to the venue’s grandiose atmosphere. Malinowski seemed to be suffering from a minor case of the sniffles and combined with a static in his microphone, this resulted in slightly muffled vocals from this vantage point. The strength of his voice improved dramatically once he strapped on a guitar and took his place centre stage with a different mic for “Cool Ruler (In the Grace of Love).” He still found time to spin tales of his family and sailor Martel’s history as he took us on a tour across the ocean.

Following an “intermission” that saw Malinowski and Krief perform three of Krief’s songs, much of the Atlantic half of the set could have been the rowdy score to a vaudeville play, a production truly meant for the stage. The calypso flavour of “Carnival Celebration #2” brought people to their feet to dance amongst the aisles and the almost drunken clattering of keys on “Set Me Free” transported the audience to a rundown bar in a nondescript coastal shanty town. The set soon concluded on a melancholy note however, with the lamentful “Skulls and Bones” and almost too quiet album closer “Low, Low Low” bringing the curtain call.

When the frontman of a much loved band such as Bedouin Soundclash goes it alone, you are never quite sure whether the audience will come hoping hear their favourites from his previous life. It was heartwarming on this occasion to be in a room filled with love for the individual on stage, and fully invested in his current endeavours. Malinowski basked in the ardour and returned to the stage solo to shower the still-hanging-on-the-edge-of-their-seats audience with a four-song acoustic encore, including tracks from his previous solo effort Bright Lights and Bruises, including the lightly frivolous “Life is a Gun” and “We’ve All Got to be Going Somewhere” as his final farewell. With that, it was time to set our sails and step back out into the drizzling evening, likely all drifting off to sleep, heads filled with dreams of being lost at sea.

Queen of the Fleet

Toronto’s bewitching folksters Queen of the Fleet opened the night. With an array of instruments – banjo, cello, glockenspiel, melodica – the women casted spells with their old fashioned folk-love songs. The early arriving seated crowd was on their best behaviour throughout their set, with minimal conversations causing a distraction.

The guitar unfortunately often felt too loud in the mix, forcing the strings to compete to be heard, but the group harmonies were more than lovely. An a cappella section in third song “Shake” provided these queens with the opportunity to show off just how formidable their voices could be on their own.

Set highlights included the wistful and enchanting opening song “Like Gold,” as well as “Shadows;” written by friend Gemma Warren, this song possessed the utmost amount of beauty in both its lyrics and music. While I’m normally won over by any sort of Neil Young cover, this time around, their interpretation of “Unknown Legend” fell a bit flat for me. Apologizing for being stereotypically Canadian and singing about the weather, they finished with “Wiccan Harvest Song” leaving us with the resonance of sweet violin strumming, plucky banjo and the plaintive echoes of drums in our ears.

You can check out Queen of the Fleet’s EP All the Beautiful Things on Bandcamp.

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Categories: Live Music


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