Daniel Johnston / Michael Gira La Sala Rossa, Montreal QC May 5
Published May 24, 2007Michael Gira entered clad in a cowboy hat, spectacles and carrying warm tea, to commence a set that quickly revealed a deeply rich, weathered and commanding voice. However, the musical delivery and lyrical content were weak; the solo performer mostly playing slow-paced songs that consisted of one to two chords, each nearing the five-minute mark, and often culminating in repetitious yet emotional displays best described as outbursts. Though one must give props to the former Swans member for chastising those who insisted on talking during his set. Daniel Johnston hit the stage to the delight of a warm and consistently supportive audience. The man with a near-mythical life story was before us with his soft voice, slightly impeded speech, white hair and nervous smile. After a brief greeting he launched into a mostly acoustic set that consisted of playing song after song at almost exactly the same rushed pace. His performance anxiety was so potent it had him visibly shaking for his ten-song, 40-minute set. At one point Johnston actually apologised for his horrendous playing, stating that he had prayed to God for support in playing well, but "God must have been watching another channel because that prayer was not answered. Johnstons guitar was audibly out of tune, each song had at least one consistently misplayed chord, and it was clear that the man was eager for his evening to end. The audience roared when Johnston headed to his piano for what would be the final song of his set, and he played wonderfully. In fact, its entirely a mystery as to why the man best known for piano compositions insisted on a poorly played guitar-based set. The evening ended with a 90-second encore in which the audience and Johnston sang "Devil Town a cappella together. The evening was generally a disappointment not due to the openers, but rather due to the unexpected song selections that nearly omitted his best songs.