Photos by Olivia Leung.
After her husband Jesse Epstein opened the show, Kina Grannis pranced onto the stage with her highly strapped guitar and a smile that could lighten up a cave. The sold out crowd at the Mod Club was losing their sense of control the very second she was on stage, and her short-stature-yet-powerful-stance felt natural: This was the love she has worked years to garner. “I wish I could play in Toronto forever!”, Grannis told me after the show without hesitating to immediately tell me that she will be returning in August. The fans shared that same notion with Grannis, as the entire night was one singular rush of happiness and shared enthusiasm from everyone within the building.
“As if I wouldn’t play that” Grannis laughed when an audience member yelled for Grannis to play her successful hit Valentine. While it is evident that Grannis has a huge fan base already with their favorite songs in mind, this show was a part of an album release tour for her newest release Elements, where copies of the album were flying out of the merchandise stand (with the vinyl copies actually running out). She presented a number of new songs like Winter, Little Worrier, Maryanne, Forever Blue and more. Her voice was soulful, engaging and soothing. She had a performance that felt like a mixture of Hope Sandoval and Joni Mitchell as she coasted through bubbly and light songs and also visited the odd emotional song (including Forever Blue which was impossibly hard to not be reminded of Mitchell’s own Blue endeavors). Her supporting band were excited and professional as well, with joyful banter between everyone, real connectivity and such fluid playing. The drumming was above and beyond what I have seen at similar gigs in a while, the piano playing was full of lovely nuances (and Super Mario Bros. music during some downtime to entertain us), and the guitar playing was never a show stealer but a cherry on top instead.
Almost every song was given a backstory. Winter was about Grannis finding a pot of dead flowers in a cabin she was writing in and wondering the story of how these flowers got here. This lead to her realization that everything ends. This theme was brought up again when she tearfully told the story of her grandfather’s passing which inspired the song Forever Blue. If there’s any indication from Grannis’s performance, which involved the shortest time between a set closing and an encore that I can think of, it’s that she truly is someone who wants to live in the moment. She performed her song Message From Your Heart unplugged with her powerful voice loud enough for all to hear. She almost knocked the microphone stand over, letting out a gasp and laughing afterwards. It is so pleasant to see a real talent just be a real person as well on stage, and if there is anything more real than a performer giggling during an unplugged version of the song that catapulted her career, I cannot think about what it is. She talked about how she had to busk on the street and perform at noisy, unappreciative bars for years until she made it big. She made it known that she is where she belongs last night, and her fear of the inevitable end need not apply to her career, as, and I think the hundreds of people last night can agree, she is a true performer.