Concert Review: Basia Bulat @ The Ago Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Toronto
Last night saw the first 1st Thursday event at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario. Catering to the 19+ crowd, the event mixes booze, food, art, and live music – what’s not to like? How about the super long line to get in, even if you had a ticket? Kicking off 2013 was an artist who I’ve been dying to see, but have missed out on several times – Basia Bulat.
The event fused images and projections from Toronto artist, Stephanie Comilang, with Basia’s music and various physical locations around Walker Court at the AGO. The beautiful voiced folk singer took to the stage around 9:45pm – but didn’t actually take to the stage. Basia started off with a song in the crowd, and she didn’t have a mic, instead letting her amazing pipes do the work.
Basia then actually took to the stage, which consisted of 2 projection screens shaped like a V, with Basia playing on both sides throughout the night. Basia noted that she’s calling the night Basia 360, a play on U2’s massively successful 360 degree stage and tour name. She then went into the track Go On, while Stephanie placed small, coloured shaped on the projectors.
The next track was a new track, with Basia noting that it “starts soft but is probably the most rocking I get.” She also added that it is the first time playing on a stage in Toronto by herself. So that wasn’t her I saw at the open mic comedy night. The track lived up to its billing, and showed off both Basia’s guitar skills and her vocal work.
The fourth track began with Basia noting that it was the first time she has played an auto harp in a gallery, which is sort of an obvious statement, depending on where she spends her weekends. She also noted that it is the weirdest show she have ever played. As Basia played Gold Rush, a video with live footage of her playing auto harp from another gig was projected behind her. However, the video was out of sync and finished before she did, but the idea was cool. 3 words: auto harp solo!
The next part of Basia 360 saw standout track, Heart of My Own. Basia moved back to the other side of the projection screens for the next track – Little Waltz, encouraging the crowd to slow dance.
Once back on the better side (read: my side), Basia debuted another new song. The new track has never played in front of anyone, not even her cats (Basia seems like a cat person). The track had Basia on an organ-sounding keyboard and her booming vocals, with flowers being placed on the projector by Stephanie. It’s another promising track for the new record.
Basia stayed on the keyboard for the 8th track – Snakes and Ladders. After that was another favourite of mine, The Shore, which was excellent, but obviously missing the dual harmonies during the chorus. Basia noted that “I feel like shows go by so fast. I feel like I just started.” Is this her way of telling us it’s over? Yes it was, but not before one final song.
Basia told us a new record would be coming out this year (yippy!), and that she is retiring her final track of the night (not yippy). She used to typically open with it, but now it’s being retired – it must’ve done something bad to her. The song is Hush, and featured an a capella Basia, clapping and stopping along to the gospel-rooted song.
Overall, the combination of Stephanie’s lighting and projections, the amazing Walker Court at the AGO, and Basia’s stellar vocals made for one cool experiment. Sign me up!
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PHM Rating for Basia Bulat: 8.5 / 10