Monday, October 31, 2005

Vienna Teng @ The Drake Hotel

I have never felt so ahead of the curve - one of my favorite artists, Vienna Teng, has apparently just had her CD released in Canada. I first saw her in Pittsburgh about two years ago, as part of the Young troubadour tour. Then, out of the blue here she is, playing in Toronto.

To call her just a singer/songwriter is a sort of misnomer, especially given all the wispy and irritating stereotypes associated with that term. She is a storyteller, a poet, and each song creates a new world and narrative for the listener to explore.

Her voice is interesting - when trying to come up with adjectives for it, I've been rather at a loss. It is neither sweet nor smoky, not poingant nor forceful - it's just...Vienna. It has every bit of her personality wrapped up in each note, and the clear delivery is perfect for her textually intricate songs.

It's a small band - just Vienna on piano, with a small drum kit behind and a violin and a cello to fill out the sound. The strings add a richness that I don't think would come with a standard guitar/bass duo, and the voice of cellist Marika Hughes blended perfectly with Vienna's.

The concert wound through a series of characters and lives - a confused girl unsure of her choices (Shasta), A trucker on their way home (Homecoming), and a soul passing from this world to the next (Passage).

Passage is sung completely acapella, and even in a mislead informal setting it manages to silence the room with force of sheer presence. Every eye is focused on this lone figure behind the piano, on her every breath and nuance, and silence reigns for moments after the last breath has passed.

It was a fantastic concert, over far too soon as the audience wound their way out at precisely 10 PM. But, the joyful feeling continued as we got in the car and immediately put in the CD, journeying home through the worlds of Vienna Teng.

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