Anticipation was high leading up to last night at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa which was the final show of The Barr Brothers run through Quebec and Ontario. One could tell that they had been playing these shows with pure passion and fire, which was clearly expressed in their enthusiasm, on their instruments and on their faces.
The NAC has 4 stages. The programming at this theatre is very diversified and last night was a great example of the utility and range of events. While the Barr Brothers were playing the 4th and final stage of the NAC, there was a high-security diplomatic event going on at one of the other rooms in the theatre hosting The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Cops, security detail and limos all over the place but it was all easy to miss while we had a very intimate showing by the Barr boys.
The evening started out with a call to be at the NAC for 7 when the doors were scheduled to open as the show was to start at 7:30 sharp. The wonderful NAC staff were pretty much on time and warned those of us in line that it was a sold out evening and we'd have to be ready to cram in together, warmingly knowing that many of us were already friends. Despite this issue, the 4th stage has surprisingly plenty of room to sit, stand, dance and traverse to the conveniently located bar service and nearby washroom.
Since the 4th stage is a GA room, the attendees knew that there were only so many tables and chairs surrounding the stage covering 180 degrees. If one gets their early enough, they can sit only 4 feet from the closest band member. However, since the room is well laid out, anyone can enjoy the show from any point in the room. Excellent sound and lighting really makes the ticket worth every penny.
The Barr Brothers opened with an instrumental piece that opens with harpist Sarah Pagé in duo with Brad Barr on guitar and some harmonica overtones. Sounds are then layered by both percussionist Andrew Barr and their 4th member, bassist/multi-instrumentalist Andrés Vial. This tune seems to set the stage for a quiet evening, as you could hear every cough and iPhone camera click in the room. However, it didn't take too long for the band to move into songs from their debut self-titled release The Barr Brothers.
Old Mythologies is one of those percussive moving songs that is driven by a very interesting hand clapping technique by Andrew. It's also a pretty fine example of their ability to take a simple song and enhance it with parts that create a piece that really shows off the style of the band. Throughout the show every band member has a part to play and sometimes, they will take on new roles mid-song. From Andrés moving from bass to organ, Andrew jumping from his drum kit to a type of ukelele. Sarah will get up from her harp and pick up a 12-string acoustic guitar for a 4-part harmony piece that features everyone in perfect sonic unity.
Since this was their last show of their tour, The Barr Brothers are looking forward to a nice little break from the Quebec and Ontario road enjoying their current residency of Montreal. It won't last long though becauseit all starts again mid-March as they launch a western leg of their tour in Austin, TX which eventuall lands them in France, the UK, the US East coast and back to Montreal for a Canada Day celebration at Metropolis (FYI, Prince played their only last June!)
The Barr Brothers are clearly on their way to bigger and more epic venues so catch them while you can with your friends.
Don't miss another upcoming show at the NAC and experience the intimacy of the 4th Stage with Peter Elkas on Friday, March 16.
The Barr Brothers Saturday March 3, 2012 National Arts Centre - 4th Stage Ottawa, ON
(setlist courtesy of Bradm)
I Know I Know
Kisses From Chelsea
The Devil's Harp
Beggar In The Morning
Sarah Through The Wall
Give The Devil Back His Heart
Lord I Just Can't Keep From Cryin' (Blind Willie Johnson)
The Darkness Has Arms
If You Leave Me
Encore: Let There Be Horses