Roll on, Jason Collett

Collett continues his love affair with The Grad Club living room

Ever the crowd-pleaser, Jason Collett played a sold-out show at the Grad Club on Friday night with guest, Rebekah Higgs.
Ever the crowd-pleaser, Jason Collett played a sold-out show at the Grad Club on Friday night with guest, Rebekah Higgs.
Rebekah Higgs sang, wailed and cooed with an East-Coast flare at The Grad Club on Friday night, opening for Jason Collett.
Rebekah Higgs sang, wailed and cooed with an East-Coast flare at The Grad Club on Friday night, opening for Jason Collett.

Jason Collett likes the Grad Club, just the way it is. Mid-set during his Friday night concert at the house-turned-bar on Barrie Street, Collett opened his eyes—eyes that were closed most of the night—and looked directly in front of him at the wall that so awkwardly divides the main level of the Grad Club.

“For years I thought that they should change this place, get rid of that wall, make more room. But you know what? I like it just as it is,” he said.

From the response of Friday’s show, Kingston likes Jason Collett just the way he is too—a little bit tired but still his charismatic Canadian self.

The Grad Club was host to a sold-out Jason Collett show last Friday, which welcomed many Grad Club virgins who were just as perplexed by the space as Jason Collett must have been all those years ago. “This is it? It’s so weird here,” an unknown girl stated rather loudly. To start the evening, it was the responsibility of Rebekah Higgs to warm up the Collett-centric crowd to the best of her ability.

“Queen’s is known for having pretty good-looking students,” Higgs said. Looking around she added, “So far, I’m not disappointed.” Higgs didn’t manage to hush the crowd completely but she played a truly mesmerizing set to those who were paying attention. Originally from Halifax, Higgs’ vocals are truly unique with a bit of that East-Coast folk flare. She coos, wails, cries and sings—all beautifully. Higgs also has a rather unique set-up. Mirroring artists such as Final Fantasy and Feist, she uses a looping device, computer and a hefty amount of reverb to create various harmonies and layers with her voice. Her sound is incredibly full and complex even though it’s only her up on stage.

Higgs has a quiet quaintness to her sound that had most spectators swaying along to her ballads and bopping their heads to her more upbeat, poppy songs. But all the while, her lyrics are confessional and melancholic. Higgs closed her set off with the song “Happy,” a sweet little ditty with a Cassio drum beat to boot.

When Jason Collett took the tiny stage, he was welcomed by the packed house. He started off his set with the quiet, world weary song “Waiting for the World,” a somber song to start off his set. With a harmonica pressed against his lips and a seriousness in his voice too real to ignore his lyrics—“Waiting for the world to come home/ everybody’s gone/I’m here all alone/ waiting for the world for the world to come home”—they took on a Dylanesque significance that the crowd definitely responded to positively.

Collett’s mood seemed decidedly subdued. Perhaps it was because Kingston was the last stop on his rather long tour, or because Collett—ever the politically active folk singer—was feeling overwhelmed by our current political situation, but all of his songs seemed to take on a darker tone than usual. His upbeat guitar-driven songs were a little heavier and Collett’s vocals were especially raw and soulful.

But there was something for everyone. Switching between three rather beat-up guitars, Collett played a mixture of songs from his cannon—his pop, rock n’ roll and rockabilly songs strung together in perfect harmony. Collett usually tours with the band Paso Mino, but the audience was treated to, as he put it, “the enthralling sounds of The Dark Horse” on Friday. The Dark Horse made up for any energy Collett may have lacked. The solid quartet had no problems filling the space of The Grad Club with their eccentricities and skills. The lead guitarist particularly had fun taking liberties with Collett’s melodies and shredding some “woot”-able solos.

Collett played mostly older songs from his Idols of Exile release, as well from his latest album Here’s To Being Here. He also took the opportunity to test some of his latest songs on the audience. Collett’s latest work seems to be taking a patriotic shift—two of his songs were specifically about Canada.

“I think I’ve written the quintessential Canadian song because I wrote about Canada through only American references,” Collett said in introduction to one of the four new songs in his set.

Collett closed by showcasing another new song aptly titled “Canada.” He discussed the country once again, but this time in its own terms. Collett is perhaps Canada’s biggest fan and biggest critic. Loving his country while being disappointed in it, is a theme that runs through all of his music. He’s currently toting around a petition in support of getting Omar Khadr out of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre. Khadr, who is a Canadian citizen, was only 15 when he was taken into custody and transported to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo.

“We’ve got a fuck-up for a Prime Minister,” Collett explained. A comment that got a healthy round of applause.

Jason Collett will be continuing his Ontario tour with a show at The Casbah in Hamilton on Oct. 14.

Rebekah Higgs will be making her next stop at The Horshoe in Toronto with Devine Right and Bart Davenport.

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