Joel Plaskett Vogue, Vancouver BC April 14

Joel PlaskettVogue, Vancouver BC April 14
The pride of Nova Scotia, Joel Plaskett, hit the stage with his Emergency rhythm section, a pair of dancing guitar monkeys triggered by a foot pedal and a life-sized bust of Wayne Newton, upon which to rest his hat. Even before he started playing, all pretensions were lost. Love was in the air, and Plaskett wasted no time endearing himself to the rabid sold-out crowd on this tour in support of his recently released album Scrappy Happiness.

Armed with an arsenal of guitars, Plaskett can play decent enough. He has an economic style, very straight-laced and straightforward, with lots of power chords and simple melodies. Only rarely as on plugged-in tracks like "Lightning Bolt" did he loosen his collar a bit and take some risks, soloing fiercely while doing his angular foot shuffle and playing around with his effects pedals. For the most part, he stuck to his comfort zone.

The Emergency went off to the wings after half a dozen songs, leaving Plaskett to spin yarns and strum an acoustic guitar. He doesn't have the strongest voice, yet with the crowd belting out every word to his older material and much of Scrappy Happiness, he didn't need one. His lyrics, quaintly illustrating small towns and big dreams, deeply resonate with his audience, elevating Plaskett to the level of a Canadian Bruce Springsteen.

The Dartmouth resident is quite endearing. He has a freewheeling, casual style, bantering about sending off a new-to-him used car back home to his wife on a train and performing on a piece of farm equipment, all the while incorporating such folksy musings into his tracks. It's easy to see why he's so engaging to his fans. However, to an outsider, seeing him live is a bit like crashing someone else's high school reunion.