Ron Sexsmith – Komedia (Brighton, UK 8/31/11)
The narrative of Ron Sexsmith’s career can be summed up thus… ‘critically acclaimed, commercially unsuccessful’… that is until this year’s album release LONG PLAYER LATE BLOOMER and the accompanying film documentary LOVE SHINES.
For long time fans watching the documentary, it was heartbreaking to see how mainstream success has eluded someone who has been acknowledged as one of the most talented songwriters of his generation. In an attempt to redress matters Sexsmith in what undoubtedly could be regarded as a left field decision, turned to Bob Rock (associated with Metallica, Motley Crue and Aerosmith) for assistance. The strategy to use Rock as his producer appears to be paying off – radio airplay has seen Believe It When I See It become a hit; Get In Line was a BBC Radio 2 record of the week, LOVE SHINES has received excellent reviews winning the audience prize for top music documentary at SXSW Film and LONG PLAYER LATE BLOOMER is shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize in Sexsmith’s native Canada.
In the UK, the LOVE SHINES documentary was screened on BBC4 in March and has brought Sexsmith to the attention of a new constituency, keen to see him for themselves. Building on this momentum Sexsmith, in relaxed mood, took the stage at a sold-out Komedia in Brighton accompanied by a four-piece band, which saw the very much-welcomed return (to judge from the cheers greeting his introduction) of long time collaborator Don Kerr (drums and harmony vocals). In addition to Kerr, the band featured Tim Bovaconti (guitar), Jason Mercer (bass) and David Matheson (keyboards).
The 26 song set-list more than just showcased the new album; it flicked through Sexsmith’s back pages with material dating as far back as 1995’s self-titled album from which three selections were made Wastin’ Time, Lebanon, Tennessee and Secret Heart. The latter together with God Loves Everyone from 2002’s COBBLESTONE RUNWAY are almost always in the set-list as they get requested on a regular basis. Through Sexsmith’s website he invites requests and for tonight’s show received three, which were all satisfied. In addition to Secret Heart, there was Strawberry Blonde and a rare outing of I Think We’re Lost.
Approximately half way through the set Sexsmith ventured ‘Dave and I are going to do a few which are too complex for the rest of the band….’ and the pair struck up Nowadays the closing track from LONG PLAYER LATE BLOOMER. As they finished Kerr and Bovaconti replaced Matheson and with all three playing guitars they gave us Listen from 2005’s DESTINATION UNKNOWN (the Sexsmith and Kerr collaboration). Extremely well received, I suspect that many in the audience would have liked at least a couple more from that album. That said nobody could complain of being short-changed tonight. The quality of the sound system was excellent and the exchanges between Sexsmith and his adoring legion of fans were all done in the spirit of huge respect on both sides. Closing out with Every Time I Follow it became apparent that he wasn’t going to get away without an encore. Sexsmith returned for a solo rendition of God Loves Everyone and was then joined by the band for two more encore songs Late Bloomer and Still Time. Rapturous applause followed so much so that they all returned for a second encore I Know It Well and Whatever It Takes.
Despite Sexsmith battling to fend off a cold, he and the band left the audience wanting even more. The energy both on and off stage made for a night to remember and I hope that moving forward I can revise what I wrote at the outset to ‘critically acclaimed, commercially successful’. Sexsmith deserves nothing less. Jela Webb