Published Sep 28, 2013Recently, Daniel Romano has opened high-profile Toronto shows for Justin Rutledge and Whitehorse. Despite the pedigree of those acts, on both occasions it was clear that the crowd would have been better rewarded had Romano been given the headliner's spot. Now, Romano's own "road to Massey Hall" seems inevitable, as he played a sold-out show in front of the Roy Thomson/Massey brand's 350-seat Enwave Theatre.
Backed by his four-piece band the Trilliums, Romano alternated between a Willie Nelson twang and a borderline creepy baritone throughout the night. The sound in the venue was less than perfect, and Romano's vocals didn't have quite the depth that followers are accustomed to, but by the time he delivered the humorous "Helen's Restaurant" in his confident and cavalier style that didn't matter.
On "She Was the World to Me" he was at times sharp and also delivered some lyrics a bit clipped. The decision to make "There Are Lines in My Face" more anthemic was probably counter-productive. On the other hand, the rocker "Poor Girls of Ontario" late in the set came as an energizing change of pace. These are minor quibbles however, and the audience was captivated all night long by the depth and breadth of Romano's impressive catalogue.
Perhaps realizing his voice can grow a little monotonous, Romano called upon no shortage of help. Opener Spencer Burton of Grey Kingdom was given vocal duties on "Middle Child," as was the angelic Sarah Harmer on one of Romano's best songs "I Won't Let It." But the surprise of the night was the iconic Gord Downie searing through "Time Forgot to Change My Heart" with pitch-black intensity. After the fedora-wearing Downie left the stage, with the vibe electric, Romano dead-panned, "He has a very loud voice."
Having struck into something pure, it's nearly impossible for Romano not to win over listeners, be they old or young, hipsters or folk music archivists. How did Romano go from just another dude in a punk band, to not just the new voice of country music in Canada, but a major new songwriter the world over? Townes Van Zandt was nothing special before locking himself in his room for weeks "drinkin' Balai Hai wine," listening to "Lightnin' Hopkins mostly" and not emerging until he could sound similar. Bob Dylan was just one of dozens of Woody Guthrie impersonators in Greenwich Village before some weird magic got into him. Romano has often talked about his obsession with George Jones. It's strange that George Jones died only five months ago, because his ghost has been channelling songs through Romano for years. In the words of Hank III, "Maybe outlaws rise again."