"There's something about playing this archaic instrument in one of the most modern buildings I've ever been in," said Basia Bulat, in reference to her signature autoharp and the seated Winspear Centre in downtown Edmonton last night (October 7). Bulat kicked off the fourth annual Up+Downtown Music Festival with grace and delicacy as she played solo with a mandolin and the aforementioned autoharp for three songs, including "Gold Rush" from her second album, Heart of My Own.
Then, Bulat invited her three-piece band and Australian opening act, Oh Pep!, to join her for "In the Name Of," a spunky highlight from her latest and fourth full-length, Good Advice. Drawing largely from her new material, Bulat's set incorporated more electronic elements than previously, which added bright energy to the room. Unfortunately, the multi-level theatre was only occupied on the lower floor, so the spirited performance felt a bit lost with a relatively small audience.
Still, Bulat's warm and intimate voice rang radiantly through her 75-minute set, and remains her strongest attribute. Other than an impromptu jazzy interlude leading into an encore of the title track from her third album, Tall Tall Shadow, there were no real surprises in the show, as Bulat is definitely no stranger to playing in Edmonton. Her charm and wit were highly enjoyable, if not very familiar — which is hardly a bad thing.