Sun, Dec 16, 2012.
Surely one of the most entertaining live performers the country has produced, John Southworth makes a somewhat rare appearance in the province Monday night in Saint John. You never know what Southworth is up to; the first time I saw him, just after his 1996 debut album Mars Pennsylvania, he was a wild crooner, with a cross between show tunes and classic radio pop. I remember well the lengths he went to transfix the audience, at one point daring someone to come to the stage with him, by asking "who wants twenty bucks?" Sure enough, he paid up to the first one to join him. Since that time, he's released a broad range of albums, including three (!) this year alone, experimenting with no end of styles, from cabaret to folk to classical-based to avant garde to contemporary. He's toured the country by train, in character as a railroad man, worked with a bluegrass band, and performed in white face makeup. Prepare for anything, and don't imagine you can compare him to anyone else.
His album from April of this year, Easterween, sees him working with a small orchestra, and no rock instruments. Strings, horns and woodwinds follow his idiosyncratic vocals, a baroque Tom Waits perhaps. Well, there I go, trying to describe him, as almost every review does, by naming someone else who specializes in sounding out of the norm. But nobody else goes out of their way to be so different from one point to another, to come up with new concepts and characters, to find another, and another voice.
I have no idea what he'll bring to the party for this show, but it won't be like anything you've seen this year, or next, and will be thoroughly captivating. Catch John Southworth at the Barrel's Head Gastropub and Wine Bar in Rothesay, Monday night at 8 PM, and there's a few seats left for this intimate performance.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).