What better way to end off 2011’s month of September then to spend it rockin’ out with Jerry Leger & The Situation at The Dakota Tavern!?
With a strong opening act by The Woody Allens (http://www.myspace.com/thewoodyallens) that had the bar up and dancing around in front of the stage, I knew this was going to turn into a fun night.
Setting up their gear, and performing a quick sound check, Jerry and the boys, looked sharp and ready to go. James McKie (lead guitar and fiddle player) looked sharp in his velour blazer and tied back hair; Dan Mock (bass player) was outfitted in his identifiable fedora; Kyle Sullivan (drummer) was rocking his classic v-neck and performing his usual stretching routine; while Jerry Leger, sang out a few notes and strummed away to make sure the levels were good on the monitors and for the patrons anxiously awaiting the performance.
Wasting little time after introducing himself and the band – welcoming and thanking the crowd at The Dakota – and takin’ a quick swig, Leger opened off his night with a rendition of The Jokes on You off of his latest studio album, Traveling Grey. This opening number made the audience aware that this band wasn’t playing Castro’s Lounge that night, it was The Dakota Tavern, and they’d brought a great crisp sound, both instrumentally and vocally. As they dove into Wrong Kind of Girl, the second track off of the aforementioned album (http://www.maplemusic.com/artists/jlg/disc.asp) the disco ball happened to be spinning in time with the music. Call it a coincidence or wonder whether Jerry was looking at it spin as he began the song; but I call it a sign, that everything was in sync on this night.
After performing four more solid songs – James McKie broke out the fiddle for Looking For A Friend off of Leger’s 2008 album, You, Me and the Horse. James is quite the fiddle player – and seems to fit in perfectly with this band – he can add beautiful drawn out notes with his control of the bow, and can unleash a fiddle solo that will have you fixated on him for the rest of the evening waiting for more. He’s a strong lead guitarist, with an ability to take control and perform hair-raising solos, while staying conscious enough of the feel of a song, crowd, and venue to make his guitar work suitable to the particular situation he is in. He’s sure to be a continuously sought after musician in the Toronto music scene and potentially and deservedly outside of it as well.
Finishing off the first set after six more songs, that saw the band perform Den of Sin off of an upcoming album Leger is working on; bring Mark McKie up on stage (no relation to James – Jerry swears on it) to accompany on fiddle as James kept hold of the lead guitar role; and unveil an extended interpretation of the classic You Are My Sunshine, that evoked smiles, laughs, tears and accompanying vocals from the crowded Dakota Tavern.
The fifteen-minute set break allowed the band time to fuel up on some beer, whiskey or water – and after the break, they came back stronger then they started. With the song Ladder off of 2006’s JL & TS album Farewell Ghost Town, the second set was commenced and setting up to be a solid second half. Jerry opened up a little more in the second set, interacting with the crowd more so than he did in the first half of the night. He’s got a gift when it comes to stage presence. He can get the crowd to emote the feelings he’s going to portray in the song he’s introducing. With little effort, Jerry grabs your attention and makes you fall in love with his songs before he’s even performed them. He’s a talented song writer – and he knows how to explain just enough of what a song is and means to him to get the listener hooked.
The performance of John Lewis off of Traveling Grey really showcased the talent and tightness of this band. With solid rhythm kept by Dan and Kyle, and psychedelic-vocal-like tones coming out of James’ guitar, matched with the vocal-performance by Jerry – we got the feeling that this band knows each other inside and out. It’s a fun thing to realize – when the band is all together, all in sync, and just feeding off of each other. After this song ended, Leger took the electric guitar from McKie as he picked up his fiddle and they performed the heart-wrenching Is He Treating You Good? also found on his latest album. This song is sung from the perspective of a guy who’s lost a girl (I know typical right…) but in this portrayal of the classic heartbreak – Jerry Leger asks the questions, is he treating you good? Is he treating you kind? Does he wait at your doorstep, give you all his time? Listen to this track and tell me you don’t feel the emotion behind it (http://www.amazon.com/Is-He-Treating-You-Good/dp/B004HJZUFK).
Ending off the set with seven more solid performances of songs such as, Round Walls, Carol King and Gerry Goffin’s Keep Your Hands Off My Baby, Hank Williams Lost Highway, Truth Is All Around You (http://www.southernsouls.ca/jerry-leger/), and an insane 10-15 minute version of Big Joe Williams’ 1935 song Baby, Please Don’t Go. As they ended off the set with the Hank Snow-inspired song Too Broke To Die off of Farewell Ghost Town, the crowd showed their enjoyment by requesting an encore. And Jerry Leger & The Situation didn’t disappoint. After declining to play the requested Friends In Low Places made famous by Garth Brooks (so not Jerry’s style) – the band opted for an interactive version of Be My Baby – popularized by The Ronettes!
If you get the chance – I advise you to check out this band. With a weekly residency at Castro’s Lounge in the Beaches, and other random shows around the city, there are plenty of opportunities to catch this group of talented artists. Check out: www.jerryleger.com; Follow them on Twitter: @JerryLeger; and Like them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/jerrylegermusic
Until the next show,