Allison Moorer / Marah – Horseshoe (Toronto, Ontario)
The soothing and soulful country of Allison Moorer followed by the roots-cum-British-rock of Marah seemed an odd pairing, but in the end, the dichotomy made this double bill all the more appealing.
Backed by a polished lineup, Moorer opened with “Think It Over”, a midtempo country number that demonstrated how her voice can steal the show from the start. Unfortunately, her abbreviated set seemed ill-structured and poorly plotted. Rather than keeping the momentum of the first song, Moorer opted for the melancholy ballad “Alabama Song”. More effective was “Dying Breed”, a brooding and ambling tune that brought to mind Tom Waits highlighted by a simple but poignant couplet. “Nobody grows old in this household/We are a dying breed.” You could hear a pin drop as all eyes were on the singer.
Moorer’s polish was the polar opposite of Marah’s Bielanko brothers, Serge and Dave. With a new rhythm section, a keyboardist, and a distinct Brit-rock sound on their recent release Float Away With The Friday Night Gods, the brothers high-fived each other and tore through “History Of Where Someone Has Been Killed” and “For All We Know We’re Dreaming”. With each track delivered like a two-and-a-half-minute garage rock song, the audience likely was a bit confused, given the Springsteen-esque style many had seen before and wanted again. “Catfisherman” came off as an MC5 throwaway track, but by then most had either adapted to the change or headed for the exits.
They took the frantic tempo down a few notches by sitting down for a brief acoustic interlude, though the strong songwriting and melodies remained on “Float Away” and “My Heart’s With The Bums On The Streets”. Soon enough, though, they returned to their newfound persona — its British influence an ironic contrast to the colonial-era American flag with thirteen stars that hung near the back of the stage.