Greg MacPherson

Bus Stop Theatre, Halifax NS, January 22

Greg MacPhersonBus Stop Theatre, Halifax NS, January 22
Photo: Lindsay Duncan
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Greg MacPherson's weapons began to fail him early in his Dead of Winter set. First, his guitar's high-E string proved temperamental, refusing to hold its tune (presumably as punishment for MacPherson making it endure the long, early morning flight from Winnipeg). Then, halfway through the performance, MacPherson's boisterous voice began to dissipate. "This has got to be my thousandth show, and this is a first," he said when he started getting hoarse. "I really wish I had some instrumentals I could rock," he later added.
 
Thank goodness, then, that MacPherson is as much a force of nature as he is a musician: he seemed to swat away these potentially set-ruining calamities like they were mere houseflies. Shifting wildly between punk poses and theatrical gestures, he whipped and whirled like a dervish when required, the set gaining even greater strength through MacPherson powering through his vocal maladies. If anything, the extra rasp in his throat proved a benefit when he slowed things down and sought out the sad, broken spirit of songs like "Snowman" and "Ukrainians."
 
MacPherson was born in Cape Breton, and he spoke with fondness of his East coast connections. But it was clear his head and his heart were both back home in Winnipeg last night, especially in light of the ongoing reaction to the horrifying murder of Tina Fontaine and launch of this week's Macleans cover story on racism in the city. "I feel like someday change has to happen… it's 2015, for Christ's sake."
 
He then introduced an as-yet-unreleased song called "Victorious," a dark, shuddering anthem on class, race and economic disparity. "It's a fight song, I guess," he said, which was an understatement: the incredible performance barely contained its jittery, nervous rage before finally exploding in a cacophonous series of guitar flourishes at the five-minute mark. It was a performance the rest of the festival will be hard-pressed to match.

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