Tami Neilson The Burdock, Toronto ON, February 4

Tami Neilson The Burdock, Toronto ON, February 4
Photo: Shane Parent
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If you chanced upon Tami Neilson's first of two back-to-back shows last night (the Burdock followed by the very fitting Dakota Tavern), you might've entertained the notion that you somehow went back in time. Neilson, in a sparkly gold dress and shiny black hair swept into a half-updo, is the embodiment of the classic female vocalist: as cheeky and coy as Peggy Lee, as poised as Dusty Springfield, with the pipes of Patsy Cline, with a little Wanda Jackson feistiness for good measure.
 
Neilson is a Canadian musician that moved to New Zealand and has found great success as a country artist there. Her band, which Neilson "put in a crate and shipped from New Zealand," lit in red and blue and adorned in matching navy embroidered western shirts, were the perfect supporting backdrop for Neilson. These four perfectly executed every tremolo-trembling riff, backing harmonies, and overall kept up the attention to detail that is so evident with their leading lady. She is a true talent, seamlessly transitioning from harmonica to acoustic guitar to tambourine, or offering the audience a subtle sultry shimmy or two. An absolute class act.
 
Her vocal stylings highly (and impressively so) reminiscent of Patsy Cline, do not sound tired or put on — she is certainly paying homage to older acts while remaining fresh and inspired. An unquestionable professional, Neilson and her band were not only flawless but very clearly having themselves a time, and judging by the toe tappers and hand clappers in the crowd, the audience was right there with them.
 
Like fellow Canadian country export Daniel Romano, Neilson is worlds better live compared to her recordings. There are subtle nuances that recordings can't capture, and the sheer power of her voice is offered free range on stage. Not to mention her amusing stage banter: "After talking about my wholesome family and two beautiful boys, I'm going to sing a cheating song," she said. "Well I'm a country artist, what did you expect? You can actually lose your certification as a country artist if you don't sing about cheating." The song in question, "Whiskey and Kisses," had her guitarist filling in the call and response vocals, and the harmonies were delectably smooth. Somehow Neilson makes questionable behaviour sound oh so good. The saccharine foot stomper "Woo Hoo" had the two testing the limits of how long they could hold the chorus' "woo" — which was both impressive and awfully charming. "Cheeky these kiwis, aren't they?" Neilson said through a smile. "Dynamite," the title track off her 2014 release, was gorgeously executed, with Neilson hitting every note as if it were no challenge at all.
 
The set closed off with a killer tune, "Holy Moses" from last year's Don't Be Afraid, which Neilson described as "a little bit white girl that is trying to be Tina Turner." The sold-out Burdock crowd were more of an appreciative type, rather than a collective of movers and tailfeather shakers, but seemingly tonight at the Dakota will bring out the boogie. If anything, perhaps Neilson's words will inspire; "Don't be afraid to get up and boogie. I know you're Canadian, but I believe in you."