Geoff Berner Raintree Cafe, Waterloo, ON - March 29, 2003

"Regina, the city that rhymes with fun!," mumbled an elegantly wasted Geoff Berner. There are few things as alarming as an inebriated man with an accordion standing next to your dinner table. Happily for the patrons of the Raintree, this one has enough charisma to fill a hockey arena, and the songwriting chops to match. He brought chatter to a halt with a fierce rendition of "Volcano God," bellowing the final chorus, and then asked sweetly if we wouldn't like to sing along to "Porn Queen Girlfriend." Therein lays his charm: a rich voice, intelligent songs and a punk rock approach to the accordion. He is a consummate performer, confident enough to scream a verse or two at LED-scorching levels and follow with heart-wrenching lyrics that momentarily convince you he's the world's best songwriter. Berner's dynamics and phrasing are so precise they're surgical; his intensity while singing is a strong contrast to his easy manner between songs. And he's got impeccable taste, not only in suits but in covers — among them a song by ukulele urchin Carmaig de Forest and Corb Lund's "Time To Switch To Whiskey (We've Been Drinking Beer All Night)." A highlight was "Maginot Line," taken from the newly released full-length, We Shall Not Flag Or Fail, We Shall Go On To The End, and preceded of course, by a brief historical sketch. Because, despite the lascivious sense of humour, Berner also seems busy thinking about things, and his fans are certainly the better for it.