"No more almond croissants," said Scottish singer/songwriter Rachel Sermanni from the stage. That thought was followed by a long pause while she considered what to say next. "Life…is different now." The comment referred to a moment earlier in her tour with Rose Cousins when Sermanni discovered she was allergic to almonds thanks to a bag that Cousins had in her car.
That was just one of the night's more entertaining moments. Sermanni and Cousins met in Toronto earlier in 2013 and decided to play a few shows together. It turns out to have been an inspired choice, as the musicians complement each other well on stage. Sermanni's outwardly shy and awkward persona is a stark contrast to Cousin's confident, comfortable presence on stage. The result was a show of fantastic music with highly entertaining moments in between.
Sermanni opened the night with a full set of songs from her 2012 debut album Under the Mountains
as well as work from her earlier EPs before Cousins took the stage.
Cousins' 2012 release We Have Made a Spark was a bit of a breakthrough work for the artist: it was on the long list for the Polaris Prize, won a Juno ward and the Prince Edward Island native has toured relentlessly since its release. Her most recent Vancouver stop saw her playing to a sold out audience at the CBC broadcasting centre in the rather spartan Studio 700.
The location suited Cousins well, as the artist launched into a 90 minute long set of music and audience chatter that did a nice job of emphasizing her talents--which are numerous.
Cousins has an easy, warm on stage presence which makes the moments between songs as entertaining as the songs themselves. In the 90 minute set we learned that: she watches True Blood (mostly for the werewolves) and Nashville (which she described as "…just candy floss" while laughing); her favourite fish & chips place on the North shore of her native Prince Edward Island is closed; she thinks George Clooney--rumoured to be in Vancouver--would "..really like me if he me me." That's a lot of information to pack in.
All of that witty banter did nothing to take away from the music, which was in fine form. Accompanied by Spark's producer Zachariah Hickman on the double bass Cousins stuck mostly to guitar but also took turns on the keyboard and the baritone ukelele.
The latter provided one of the highlights of the night, with Cousins' "…hymn for the people who choose this line of work…" played on the ukelele. It's chorus of "may my heard be forever stirred / and music be the holy word" summed up the night nicely for an audience that was attentive, respectful, and aware that they were watching an immensely talented singer songwriter at her best.
Towards the end of the set Cousins invited Sermanni back to the stage more than once and the friends performed as a trio with both Cousins and Sermanni taking the lead at times.A light hearted acoustic cover of Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do With It" added a nice touch of levity late in the festivities.