Published Aug 02, 2016Mike Kinsella doesn't bring his solo songwriter project Owen to Toronto often, but seated alone in front of just his acoustic guitar and a mic, last night (August 1) he made up for it by giving the Great Hall a relaxed, intimate catch-up.
Still settling in before opening the set with "Where Do I Begin" and "Vivid Dreams" from 2013's L'ami du Peuple, Kinsella greeted the crowd by asking if anyone had anything they wanted to talk about, and after indulging a comment about his haircut, he kept the conversation going throughout the night, promising the crowd he would "treat this like a first date" and "talk during the awkward silences."
Between asking the crowd what they were doing after the show and offering anecdotes about misadventures taking his kids to Centre Island amusement park with his wife (on the Civic Holiday, no less), in the first half-hour of his set, we heard more L'ami du Peuple material like "Who Cares" and "Love is Not Enough," amongst earlier classics like At Home With Owen's "The Sad Waltzes of Pietro Crespi" and "A Bird in Hand" and No Good for No One Now's titular "Nobody's Nothing."
Eventually, Kinsella dipped into some material from his freshly released The King of Whys, and shortly after a stripped down version of "Desperate Act," he slapped a caveat on the night.
"In my mind I have a value on each song I play, and if I get through a certain number of them correctly, then, like, you guys got your money's worth and I can fuck up the rest," he joked. "I don't think anybody else thinks that's true, but that's alright."
It was a clever, self-deprecating way to relax expectations surrounding how he was going to handle solo acoustic arrangements of his most dynamically designed material to date — in addition to Kinsella's acoustic guitar, The King of Whys is rich with pizzicato strings, pedal steel and upright bass, so some stuff was expected to get lost in translation — and it introduced the second half of the set as a segment for taking chances.
So no one was put off when Kinsella missed some steps on "An Island," which afforded him time to joke about the mistakes ("I want to get this sounding like Dave Matthews"), take a step back and finish the song. Later, while admitting it involves "a lot of heavy lifting from the other guys," this also paid off in Kinsella trying his hand at a rare cover of American Football's "Never Meant" ("only because I have to play it next week in front of way more people than you" — hint, hint, Wrecking Ball Festival), and the crowd returned the favour with the most impassioned sing-along all night.
The nostalgia-heavy hour ended with a version of "Ghost of What Should've Been," which Kinsella correctly evaluated as "barely passable," but tangled up amongst all these sloppy blunders, we all got a night of rare glimpses into the mind of one of indie's most prolific songwriters — and with that, our money's worth, too.