Donovan Woods Central, Toronto, ON, March 23

Donovan Woods Central, Toronto, ON, March 23
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It doesn't take a feng shui expert, an engineer, or even much of a pragmatist to point out that tables at the rear of a small music venue will encourage disruptive chatter. The Central is first and foremost a bar/restaurant. Typically, its layout — tables at the front, tables at the back, standing room in the middle — probably makes little impact on what goes on onstage.

Still, for those nights when music isn't an afterthought, it can be a tricky room to play. From the outset, Toronto's Donovan Woods — a veteran of the space — had a sense of its pitfalls. With just an acoustic guitar, he wryly pointed out that, should the crowd's attention stray then the experience would "be shitty." In the front, at least, they listened.

Despite having a brand new record, Don't Get Too Grand, Woods mined his back catalogue from the beginning with the bittersweet "Your Daughter, John" and "Let Go Lightly," both from his previous release.

From there, he took a figurative wander. With references to Saskatchewan, Petrolia, Ontario and an ex's trip to Europe, his set covered a fair amount of ground. Fittingly, a late-act rendition of his Toronto anthem, "Oh, Industrious Nation of Toronto," was the apotheosis of the evening's geographic segment. Incidentally, it played much better when accompanied by audience laughter.

With a rapt, swelling crowd — who eventually called for and received a rare CMW encore — Woods had full command of a difficult room. It was an at turns funny, charming and moving outing from one of Toronto's finest singer-songwriters.