Raine Maida

GUEST CONCERT REVIEW: Chantal Kreviazuk – Friday, February 12, 2021 (Sessions Live) by Dr. Kathryn Ladano

Review by Dr. Kathryn Ladano

CHANTAL KREVIAZUK – Friday, February 12, 2021 (via Sessions Live)

I’m going to preface this review by saying that at the start of the pandemic, I spoke openly about how I didn’t like virtual concerts and didn’t think they could ever replace live concerts. While I still feel that virtual concerts can’t and won’t replace live concerts, now, after viewing a number of virtual events, I’m seeing that they are simply different animals. And the best virtual concerts I’ve seen are the ones that embrace the fact that it’s a different and new platform. In other words, the ones that aren’t trying to be replacements for live concerts. Friday night (February 12 2021) I attended Chantal Kreviazuk’s live-streamed concert presented by Sessions Live, which definitely falls into the category of digital concerts that embrace the platform, and in the process give you something new and innovative, and in this case, really intimate as well.

Chantal’s concert was streamed from her own home. We got to see her perform on her own piano with a simple black background with three of her own paintings in the background with a couple of candles in front (we learned during the concert that the artwork was all painted by Chantal and put on display for the live concert by her husband, Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace). There was a single camera being used that allowed the audience a side view of Chantal and her piano as she performed. The format was very unique: She had no pre-determined set list going into the concert. Instead, she asked for audience requests via social media leading up to the concert, and then also took requests via the chat option on the Sessions Live platform. You really felt that you were witnessing something new and special. Nothing was pre-planned, which meant that Chantal would get requests for songs that she hadn’t played in decades. What I loved about this was that instead of just skipping over those requests, she tried to play the songs anyway – even when she couldn’t remember the lyrics and wasn’t sure of the melodic or harmonic material either. As an artist myself, I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t have even attempted to play something for an audience that I wasn’t 100% confident in my ability to do – so I really, really admire her for doing this. The music was all about the fans – not her image, not her vanity, not to display her skills as a pianist or singer. I feel that this is exceptionally rare, and it was one of the things that made the night so special.

In addition, doing the concert from her home meant that you got a little glimpse into Chantal’s life. At one point she wanted some water, so she grabbed her phone and texted Raine upstairs, asking him to bring down a glass (during the middle of her live stream!). Raine arrived a couple minutes later with a glass of white wine instead of water. While Chantal wanted him to appear on camera, he refused and all we saw was his hand as he handed over the glass of wine. During her performance of “Before You”, which she sang right after receiving the glass of wine, and she referred to as Raine’s song, she tried to keep herself composed as her 12-year old son mimicked and did impressions of her off camera. These are the types of things that may seem trivial, but you’ll never see them as a part of a live show. As I said earlier, this show was just about the fans and what they wanted to hear, as well as creating an intimate and unique experience from home.

While I am most certainly fan of Chantal’s music, I must be perfectly honest and confess that I am primarily a fan of her first two albums. I own the first four, but I mostly just listen to the first two. When she first emerged in 1997 with the album Under These Rocks and Stones, her music hit me hard at a pivotal moment in my life. I was in my early 20’s and the raw and angst-filled themes in those songs resonated with me in a way that no other music did. The first album does have some happier themes, but it also deals with loss, low self-esteem, feeling that one lacks in social prowess, death, unhealthy relationships, and feeling like one doesn’t deserve to be treated well by others. Chantal is only 2 years older than me, so I believe she was likely writing about what young women of that age feel and experience – and boy did it speak to me. Her second album, Colour Moving and Still was also a big favourite of mine. At this point in her life she was with Raine (she got married to him the same year the album was released), and you could begin to hear the influence of those “happier” themes in her music (such as in the song “Before You”). While this album wasn’t as dark thematically, it still had some very powerful material and still dealt with themes of death, loss, separation, and uncertainty. While the first album was more emotionally raw, the second album was more musically strong. Chantal is a classically trained pianist and you can really tell – there’s no doubt that she has chops. As someone who was studying music performance in university at the time, this was another reason why her music resonated with me. The music and the piano playing were so much more sophisticated than most of the other popular music I was hearing at the time. As I said earlier, the first two albums are what I’m mostly a fan of. That’s not to say her later music isn’t as strong, it just didn’t impact or resonate with me the same way, so I’ve found myself less attached to it (even though I love many of the singles from her third and subsequent albums). Chantal writes from within – from her own life. And I think that when she got into a happy marriage and had kids, her music shifted along with her lifestyle, and I just didn’t exactly shift with it. I couldn’t relate to it the same way.

That being said, last night’s concert was a real treat because many of the fans sending in requests were asking for songs from the earlier albums. While I think I may have forgotten a song or two, I do recall the following songs being performed: “Feels Like Home”, “Time”, “Green Apples” (she couldn’t quite remember all of this one), “Souls” (she also couldn’t quite remember all of this one), “Before You”, “Unforgivable”, “All I Can Do”,  “What if it All Means Something”, and “Surrounded”. She also sang a rendition of “Happy Birthday” to an audience member named Jennifer. This is where I learned that Chantal’s real name is Jennifer, and Chantal is actually her middle name. She mentioned that this concert was one in a set of three that will be coming up over the next little while. She also ran out of time and promised that the next performance would feature “Wayne” from the first album (the song that hooked me as a fan), and “Wings” from her most recent album. I also have a song named “Wings” on my latest album! But they couldn’t sound more different from one another.

In addition to the concert ticket, I also purchased a one-on-one meet and greet with Chantal following the show. It was very brief, but really great (each person had only 3-minutes, but she did go a little over with most people I think). I was very nervous and while I had several questions and comments pre-planned, I didn’t actually get any of them out. Instead I asked her about her dog who jumped into her lap during our chat. She is very personable though and I really appreciated even just having a couple minutes to talk to her like anyone else. I did want to tell her how much her first two albums impacted me, but I didn’t get that out either. All in all, it was a fantastic experience and I will definitely be attending the next live-stream in mid-March.

4.5/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Avril Lavigne – Under My Skin (2004 w/ bonus track)

Yesterday, you read all about why I own this (and many others).  Will I still like it today?  Let’s find out.

AVRIL LAVIGNE – Under My Skin (2004 Arista)

Let’s get on with it.  The version of Under My Skin that I have comprises 13 songs, so let’s put the headphones on.   “Take Me Away” opens strongly with sparse, polished guitars and keyboards.  It sounds like Evanescence, actually.  It was written by Avril and her guitarist Evan Taubenfeld.  At this point, Avril wasn’t singing with any annoying contrivances in her voice.  She was just blasting away (most likely in autotune).  Given that this song is very produced and plasticized, it’s still a good song.  So far we’re 1/1.

AVRIL_0004“Together” is a bit too melodramatic for Mike 2014, but damn, I still love that fucking chorus. I’m singing along with my fist in the air.  Shit!  2/2.

One of several hit singles was the ballady “Don’t Tell Me”.  This one makes me want to vomit in my mouth a little bit.  I’m uncomfortable with this kind of teenybop rock now.  But that fucking chorus hits and…ahh fuck!  Still, the chorus can’t save the song, it’s shite.  2/3.

Avril returns to her so-called punk roots with “He Wasn’t”.  Phil X on guitar here, but he doesn’t get to solo (a damn shame).  As much as I want to hate the song, I can’t.  It seems pretty sincere, and it ain’t bad.  It’s snarky but not annoyingly so.  3/4 now.  “How Does It Feel” is a ballad, not a bad one either.  The instrumental production on this one (by Raine Maida) is excellent, although the vocals still sound autotuned.  Phil X again on guitar.  The score is now 4/5.

I’m a total sucker for the single “My Happy Ending”.  Butch Walker wrote a pretty cool song, and the chorus is one of those Avril bellows that she is known for.  The lyrics, like most of ’em, are about some dude.  I can’t really sing along to “He was everything, everything that I wanted,” sincerely, you know?  Still, the score is now 5/6.  And it’s going to go up to 6/7, because I remember liking the song “Nobody’s Home” a lot.  I’m not sure what the lyrics are exactly about, but Avril sounds like she’s trying to get serious, so that’s better than words about some dude.  Ben Moody from Evanescence itself co-wrote this one, so you can guess who it naturally reminds me of.  Still, I’ll maintain that 6/7 because the chorus is still great.

“Forgotten” starts out crap.  You sure can tell this one was written by Chantal Kreviazuk as that is who it sounds like.  The track doesn’t improve on the chorus.  Pass.  The board reads 6/8.   A good song called “Who Knows” is up next, and even though it wasn’t one of the single, I think it’s one of the best songs.  This one kind of sounds like a pop metal anthem, you could imagine a band like Warrant having a song like this.  It has mellow acoustic verses with a shout-y fun singalong chorus.  7/9 now!  “Fall To Pieces”, written with Raine Maida sounds like an Our Lady Peace outtake.    A pretty good outtake, with a great bridge.  Good enough for 8/10.

I have always liked “Freak Out”.  It’s just fun.  This one too sounds like a Raine Maida construction, but it is not.  It’s written by Butch Walker and Avril’s drummer Matt Brann.  It’s easier to listen to than most Our Lady Pea(ee-yai-ee-aye-ee)ce, so the score is now 9/11.  As my buddy Craig might say, it’s looking like it’s time to hand in my Man Card.

Maybe not!  “Slipped Away” is utter shite that I cannot listen to.  It sounds like Chantal…guess who wrote it?  The chorus is not too bad, but this song is crap.  Can’t take it.  If I could deduct 2 points, I would.  9/12.  It’s down to the “bonus track” now.  “I Always Get What I Want” originally came from a UK edition, but I bought this CD from my nearest Walmart.  There’s something on the fine print about Sony BMG Music Entertainment (UK) Ltd, so maybe that’s something to do with it.  “I Always Get What I Want” is another “punky” Avril, but like “Slipped Away”, it too is crap.  Sounds like Avril’s trying to be her heroes, Green Day.  No thank you.

The final score for Avril Lavigne’s Under My Skin is 9/13.  Did I like it as much now as I did in 2004?  Not quite.  It might have been that I liked a couple more of those sappy songs.  However, I’ve already said far too much here.  I’m going to cut my losses and get out now.

3.5/5 stars

#321: That Crush on Avril (RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale)

NEW SERIES

Welcome to the first of my new continuing series; the “Post-Record Store Tales” I’ve been talking about.  Here are the RECORD STORE TALES MkII:  Getting More Tale.  Featuring my Simon Pegg action figure as the new “Mini-LeBrain”! Title suggested by Aaron!

To quote David St. Hubbins, “Hope you like our new direction!”

LEBRAIN AND AVRIL

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II:  Getting More Tale

#321:  That Crush on Avril

One of those lingering points left after the conclusion of Record Store Tales was this: my unexplained, unusually large Avril Lavigne CD collection.  This is that tale.

When Avril’s first album arrived in 2002, I was encouraged to listen to it by a new hire at the Record Store.  “I hear that this album has some of the best pop songwriting that has come out in years,” he said.  “From a technical point of view.  I read that the album is just mathematically perfect, from a songwriting perspective.  Mind if we listen to it?”

“Sure,” I said.  “Throw it on.”  I scanned the credits.  Each song was co-written by big name mega-writers with more gold records than I have socks.  There were big name producers on every song, and some familiar names from my metal collection:  Josh Freese might be best known as the drummer in the Vandals (among many others) but I first heard his name in regards to Guns N’ Roses who he was with for a short time.  Another guy, Alessandro Elena, was the drummer in Bruce Dickinson’s Skunkworks.  (He’s the subject of their song, “I’m In a Band with an Italian Drummer.”)

I know that the album was mostly pre-fab, but I didn’t mind it.  Since I was limited in what I could usually listen to in-store, and Avril was fairly safe, I played it a lot.  I always recommended it to customers who were looking for new music for their kids, who thought Britney was getting too skanky.  As a bonus, punk kids seemed to hate her.  Eventually I bought a copy myself.

I probably annoyed the shit out of my co-workers.

AVRILAvril released her heavier second album (Under My Skin) in 2004, and this is where my crush really began. Avril had a new image and a new sound.  I don’t like thinking about that crush anymore; I have been mocked enough.  Hell, Craig Fee mocked me for it on the air just this past Wednesday!  It is true that I had a crush on Avril.  The new grown-up Avril had gothed out and turned up on the cover of Maxim.  Maxim agreed with me, just look at that headline!

Today, the thoughts of “Chavril”, that unholy union between Avril and Horse-man, makes me feel ill.  It’s like finding out your ex-girlfriend is now seeing that jock in school you just fucking hated.  We recently heard that Chavril was splitting.  If so, I say good for her!

So anyway, the second album: It had more names from my metal shelves.  In addition to Josh Freese, the legendary Kenny Aranoff and the astounding Brooks Wackerman played drums.  Phil X of Bon Jovi and Triumph was on axe.  Finally the Canadian duo of Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida were playing and co-writing on most songs too.  This is accompanied by an overall darker and harder approach.

I liked the album a lot in 2004.  Will I like it in 2014?  Let’s find out tomorrow, for a full review.

To be continued…

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