Ron Sexsmith, Royal Albert Hall (London, UK 3/7/13)
‘Oh, I cut my hair?’ questioned Ron Sexsmith during his first headlining appearance at this prestigious venue, but a fan had actually shouted out to him ‘I’m glad you’re here!’ That summed up perfectly the sentiments of the rest of tonight’s audience, which included Sexsmith’s parents who had travelled from Canada to see their son perform.
I sat in the Stalls and the people around me were so attentive throughout and like me, hung on every note of this twenty-eight-song show. In the spotlight, against a backdrop of a cartoon image of his cherubic face, Sexsmith opened with two solo songs Former Glory and Heavenly after which his band joined him. He refers to them as the ‘EH Team’ and they are his long time touring band – Don Kerr (drums/percussion), Tim Bovaconti (guitar), Jason Mercer (bass) and Dave Matheson (piano).
Sexsmith’s voice is so distinctive and the sound mix, where I sat, was perfect. His voice, warm, yet with more than just a touch of vulnerability, wrapped itself around his sensitive and tender lyrics. Touring behind the recent release of FOREVER ENDEAVOUR we naturally heard a selection of material from the new album but overall were treated to a gorgeous mix of old and new. There were rare performances of First Chance I Get from 1995’s self-titled album and Lemonade Stand from his and Kerr’s 2005’s DESTINATION UNKNOWN. He dedicated There’s A Rhythm to a long-standing fan whose poor health prevented her from travelling to this show, although she had made it to the Belfast show. That’s the thing about Sexsmith he interacts with his fans, much more so than many musicians and they return that appreciation in droves. For live shows, he asks them to request songs via his website and does his best to fulfil those requests although with a back catalogue like his, it is hard, no, make that impossible, to meet everyone’s favourite songs – unless he played for hours and hours.
Sexsmith has always been very honest and self-effacing and tonight when the band left the stage just after half way through the evening, he put down his acoustic guitar, moved towards the piano vacated by Matheson, and said that this was the part he dreads the most each evening…he needn’t have done. His solo turn, initially with Autumn Light a co-write with legendary lyricist Don Black, and secondly with Secret Heart (one of my favourites) were highlights. So fragile, so beautiful…
Deepens With Time from the new album, reflective of his childhood upbringing, was played for his parents; Gold In Them Hills was a pre-show request and Get In Line the single from LONG PLAYER LATE BLOOMER was one that charted, much to his delight. That album and the accompanying documentary LOVE SHINES brought his music to a wider audience – many were present tonight. He referred to the pre LONG PLAYER fans as a cult following and the post LONG PLAYER fans as ‘RonHeads’. Okay, I fall into the former category and it was wonderful to see him play in front of a couple of thousand or so in a venue that never even featured in his wildest dreams…
A standing ovation greeted the end of the set but brought Sexsmith and his band back for a three-song encore – Lebanon Tennessee, All in Good Time and I Know It Well.
Why are sad songs so comforting? Why do we find solace in them? I don’t know the answer to these questions but I know a man who does – Ronald Eldon Sexsmith. Jela Webb