Concert Review: Karen Kosowski @ The Central, Toronto 1/13/08

I hate Winter.

I’ve always hated Winter, which makes for interesting birthdays for a December baby.  It’s likely why my sojourn to California and Tijuana for my birthday last month was so incredibly enjoyable;  being a Spring/Fall girl, frolicking for nearly a week in 23 Celcius weather and blue skies was heaven.  Thus, when miserable cold and wet snow began pouring down an hour prior to showtime, I was unimpressed, but thankfully undeterred.  I feel sorry for fans who were unable to be part of the small group of brave folk at The Central last night, because I do believe I witnessed what is destined to become my favourite Karen Kosowski performance since first lucking into her as an opener for Andrea Florian in 2002.

I spent the entire set excitedly telling my friend just why the setlist was incredible, and I nearly imploded at one point (and apparently my failure to explode into tiny Amber bits on the Central’s red walls disappointed Karen;  perhaps she’ll just have to play the song at the centre of this again…), such was the fabulous.  Perhaps it was the lack of pressure created by an intimate audience primarily of friends and supporters;  perhaps it was the weather (in which case, Winter does not suck nearly as hard as I am wont to believe).  Perhaps it was the crack in the sweet potato fries.  No matter;  I hate that Old Man Winter (and you just know Winter is a man) kept people away.  I wish I had a DVD of this show, so that I might blast it loudly on my dad’s home entertainment centre and pretend it’s happening again.

Opening this week was Courtney Farquhar, someone I had the pleasure of seeing open for Karen in the past.  A brilliant compliment to the folkier side of Karen’s repertoire, Courtney is a wonderful performer.  She’s at ease on stage, she banters well, and the songs are well-crafted poetry set to mood-amplifying melodies that leave you lulled into a hypnotic state.  For the fans who are exceptionally partial to Karen’s Optimist Party, Courtney is sonically and lyrically right up your alley, and I encourage you to take a wander over to her site and give her tunes a spin.  She’s hard at work on an album at the moment, but she does have an EP available for sale.  Like Karen, Courtney transcends studio recordings and is best heard live, so I urge you to make time if you’re local and catch a show.

Karen and Mike took to the stage, and proceeded to deliver a delicious blend of the new and old (and when I say old, I mean OLD) that had our server sitting down several times and enjoying with fascination.  Opening with the title track of Meeting The Future At Full Speed, I have to note that the balance of sound was improved from the week before, with Mike and Karen’s vocals easier to hear blending.  It’s also wonderful to see these shows because Karen is genuinely having fun;  her pride in the new material shines through and becomes infectious with every song.

The first surprise of the night was Always Catching Up, a song that began making itself known live during the touring for Out Here At Sea, but never reaching an album in studio form.  It’s a song I’m very fond of, and I was delighted to see it resurface after disappearing from setlists.  On the heels of this, Karen slid into live staple Tragic… on piano, instead of guitar!  What a difference!  I’m absolutely smitten with the piano version now, and the drums just gave it that much more awesome.

Fast forward a few songs later…  Karen muses that half of her wants to do an introduction to the next song, and half of her doesn’t.  Settling with a very vague introduction (“This is a request”), Karen broke out the song that has become to this show what She’s Your Cocaine’s live return was to the Detroit Tori Amos show:  Planet.  Remember that implosion story?  This is the song in question.  The blog followers will recall me musing in the review of last week’s show that “I’ll believe it when I hear [Planet live]”…  I am a believer.  A thrilled and vindicated believer, whose opinion of a song most fans are completely unaware of was shared by others in the audience.  You know you’re a rabid fan when the first few notes of a false start are enough to clue you in to the next song…  The Planet EP is long out of print and no longer available for sale, which is a shame;  however, I did ask Karen if I could share out the ‘out of print’ goodies via MP3, so I’ll hook you up:  download the studio version of Planet here, and tell me this wasn’t foretelling of the moody ethereal feel of Out Here At Sea that was to come years later.

I’ve managed to get the woman to perform Woman, Planet and Marianne (a song from the also out of print Live At Rogue’s Gallery disc);  now if only I could convince her to dust off Music Box Dancer…

I am proudly rabid.

Overload alert!  After the mind-melting experience of hearing a song I’ve been requesting since 2004 (!), Karen broke out Faded Souvenirs, the brilliant closer of her new album that may just boot Love & Bandaids from my favourite Karen song slot.  As chilling and moving live as on the album, this song is one that demands to be a live staple.  It’s a showcase for her talents, and easily one of the best songs she’s written.  Following this with an encore of New York Minute (a cover I haven’t heard her do in ages, and one of my favourite songs ever written), I was just flabbergasted.  I’m sad the show had to end!

Karen has one more show at The Central, on January 20th.  I beseech you:  get your ass out the door and down to this fantastic venue, enjoy some tasty food, and behold Karen at the top of her game.  I’m not sure how she’ll top the second show, but I have faith she may just be able to pull it off.  Her MySpace would be here.

Setlist:  Karen Kosowski – The Central, Toronto 1/13/08

Meeting The Future At Full Speed
Land On Your Feet
Love & Bandaids
Always Catching Up
Tragic (on piano!)
Your Day Will Come
Can’t Fail Anymore
Faded Souvenirs
Stars In Our Eyes

New York Minute (Don Henley cover)

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