On Friday March 28th The Shenkman Arts Centre showcased the wonderful musical talent of Ian Kelly. I confess that going into the show I had no idea who Kelly was. This is rather a sad state of affairs on my part, given that Kelly not only has quite the following in French Canada, his sophomore album Speak Your Mind has been certified gold.
With music and lyrics that remind me of a mix of the Counting Crows and Blue Rodeo, Ian Kelly was a very pleasant surprise from the moment he took the stage. While the audience was small in number, they were large in energy. The opening number “One Day” caught my attention immediately, not only with the music but also with the beautiful scenery that played against a backdrop on stage, accompanying the song. This would be consistent throughout the show; sometimes there would be movies, sometimes simply the cover of Kelly’s 2013 album All These Lines, but always the background added something more visually artistic to the concert.
After drawing in the crowd with a few slower, lyrically mellow, songs Kelly amped it up a level for one of my favourites of the evening, “I’m on Your Side”. This one had a great melody and catchy beats and you couldn’t help but hear a shadow of Jim Cuddy in the singing. During Kelly’s humorous, entertainingly bilingual interactions with the audience he revealed himself to be somewhat of an environmentalist. Or at least that the reality of living in the world today is dark enough to inspire him to write the slightly dystopian songs “Wonderful Humans” and “Gold”.
Kelly certainly knows how to ensure balance in his show, following up the melancholy hits with lighter crowd pleasers. It takes a sense of humour to rhyme ‘castle’ with ‘a**hole’, after all. And how can you go wrong with a song called “Breakfast for the Soul”. You simply can’t. That particular song brought down the house, and Kelly was smart enough to keep it in his back pocket until the end of the set. While he and the band did come back to an encore of two more songs, it was pretty hard to beat “Breakfast for the Soul”.
Having walked into the show completely unaware of Ian Kelly or his music, it is a testament to his talent (and that of his band mates!) that he now has a new fan. I highly encourage you to check out his albums – all available for listening or purchase online – particularly the most recent All These Lines. Also keep an eye out on the performance schedule at Shenkman Arts Centre, clearly they know talent when they see it.
Despite her day job as a bureaucrat, A. Laramey is a writer who spends far too much time on the internet. You can find her on Facebook.