On his Calgary stop, Shauf brought his live band to Festival Hall, a multi-purpose room that also serves as the Calgary Folk Music Festival headquarters. The 225-capacity space was nearly sold out and filled with the typical folk fest crowd — groups of trendy 20-somethings and smiling older couples eagerly waited to get their fix of folk music.
Former Attack in Black bassist, Ian Kehoe, opened up the show performing under his solo moniker, Marine Dreams. Armed with only his acoustic guitar, Kehoe played stripped down versions of songs from his latest album, Producer's Wonderland, which came out a few days ago on cassette costing "the same as a slice of pizza." After his set of tender balladry and witty banter, Kehoe revealed that he will be back on stage as the drummer of Shauf's band.
Shauf, usually known for his goose bump-inducing solo performances, had an extra layer of depth to his evocative and heartfelt narratives with the addition of the four-piece band alongside him. Never overpowering, the band breathed along with Shauf; they were dead quiet for the sentimental moments and rhythmic for the instrumental builds, and expansive without being too imposing. No doubt Shauf's voice is the focal point; his boyish tenor warmly filled up the emotional center of the room, sighing about lost and forgotten friendships and lovers.
The longhaired Shauf, hunched over the mic stand swaying slightly and clutching his guitar, is captivating to watch, in a minimalist sort of way. He seemed focussed on expressing as much as he can over a muted, plucked guitar, like he was telling the crowd a secret. His stirring poetic verse paired nicely with the sombre pace of his previous work as well as the chugging guitars on some of the new songs. The only thing missing from the live band was the brooding clarinet, an essential instrument on The Bearer of Bad News' best tracks like "Lick Your Wounds" and fan-favourite "I'm Not Falling Asleep." Violin mimicked what the clarinet sounds like on the record, but didn't quite do it justice.
Shauf is a more mature songwriter than his age suggests, effortlessly creating an atmosphere of pensive gloom that somehow also beautifully delicate and spacious. It seems fitting, then, after the band's too-short 50-minute set, a light snowfall and chilling fog was waiting for the audience in the darkness outside.