The world is going at a fast pace for Edmonton’s Ruth B. From high school graduation to touring North America with her self-penned songs in just a couple years, she climbed aboard the City Stage at Ottawa’s CityFolk last night and unfolded her personal diary of songs from a recent debut full length album, Safe Haven. It was only a short time ago in the Spring she accepted her JUNO award in Ottawa for Breakthrough Artist of the Year, and wowed audiences with her televised performance. After tonight, she leaves for a smattering of US dates as she embarks on the second phase of her tour.
Under the gorgeous summer evening sky, Ruth B stood centre stage to sing the first few songs that shared the theme of the challenging throes of love, beginning with the lovely skipping cadence of “Dandelions.” By the third song in her set, “Mixed Signals,” she really began to warm up on the big stage and she delivered the song’s challenging vocals with ease.
We finally saw Ruth B take her usual stance at the piano for “In My Dreams,” which reeled me in with its melancholy melody, and was given a thicker instrumental touch with backing bass, second keyboard/synth, and drums. The set then took a lively turn into “Young,” which bore an catchy hip-hop groove, and breathed with contrasting slow-to-dramatic builds by the end.
She stayed put at the keys for “Golden,” one she introduced as being about “embracing our differences which reflect the best part of ourselves.” The song’s heartfelt lyrics of self-worth, overtop its uncomplicated and achingly pretty chords, was a prime example of her ability to write compelling pieces that convey both human vulnerability and strength.
Next came my favourite track of the night, “If This Is Love,” that swayed in its very infectious three-quarter beat, and vocal peaks and valleys. Heavier tones of bass and drums brought some marvellous dramatic treatment to the song’s stripped recording on the album. Next, her clever take on Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You” took the audience’s energy level up a notch, as she and her band delivered a slightly slower, yet rhythmically potent version. She let her voice loose on some impressive vocal gymnastics, which flowed effortlessly and smoothly from her wistful mid-tones into her crystal clear falsetto and back.
Next came the song that catapulted her into stardom… her Peter Pan-inspired “Lost Boy,” a song that flourished out of its six-second Vine beginnings, which is a story not unlike a fairytale in itself. The song’s haunting and moody tone of perfectly blended lyrics and melody were delivered in its original simplicity of piano and vocal, accompanied only by the audience’s raised voices during the chorus.
She left the crowd with the album’s single, “Superficial Love,” that had me moving to its fluid dance-inducing hip-hop beat. I also enjoyed the song’s positive message of self-empowerment and how one should never settle for anything less than the real thing.
She thanked the audience then made her exit as the band brought the song to its final bars. By the end of Ruth B.‘s hour long performance, she showed her prowess not only as a talented singer, but her ability to compose genuinely heartfelt songs that held the crowd’s attention all the way through. Her smooth and very controlled vocals were mesmerizing and at times, she reminded me of a young Lauryn Hill or Beyoncé. I see great things to come from this young Canadian performer, who is only beginning to make waves across the globe.