Sarah Harmer Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, Halifax NS - September 11, 2004
Published Oct 01, 2004Sarah Harmer's talent was forged in rock. You can hear it in the bones of her voice. Harmer's current band configuration is the best she's assembled since her Weeping Tile heyday and deserves a live album to document this tour. They are multi-instrumentalist (but mostly keyboardist) Julie MacDonald, drummer Dean Stone, bassist John Dinsmore and former Inbred guitarist Mike O'Neill. If you squint, O'Neill could be mid-'70s Rick Danko, and he wonderfully translates the subtle chord changes in songs like "Dandelions in Bulletholes" into primitive Neil Young-like sounds. Tracks like "Took It All" that on disc seem a bit muted on stage recall instead the punky clutter of the Tile's underappreciated last CD, Valentino. Harmer chose to start upbeat: "Silver Road," "Almost" and "Around This Corner" would have had people dancing if the Cohn Auditorium wasn't a soft-seater. Many of the songs were rearranged, allowing the ultra-tight band to move in and out of the shadows, joining her for crescendos but leaving Harmer alone for instrumental and vocal bridges. The new dark material like "Greeting Card Aisle" wasn't out of place with "You Were Here," the haunting title track from her first solo release. Of all the gems in Harmer's impressive back catalogue there were only three performed solo: "Handkerchiefs and Napkins," from Cold Snap made a rare appearance, then the crowd favourite "Dogs And Thunder" and finally the live-staple houseplant waltz of "Oleander." Though it was sweet to hear her acoustic, her band made a case for itself and her newer stuff as being wilder and grittier than one might expect. Harmer put it best when she introduced a song she wrote when she was 18: "It wasn't that long ago."