Photo courtesy of Malcolm Cook | Massey Hall archives.
An Etobicoke local, Basia Bulat’s folk pop balances the ethereal with a tangible gravity, bridged by her impossibly bold voice. With her third and most recent LP, Tall Tall Shadow, Basia is no stranger to the emotionally resonant. In her stunning performance at Massey Hall, neither was the audience. In a fleeting moment of silence she conceded “This whole album I wrote for a dear, dear friend of mine and I miss her very much.” With a sad smile, she turned to the crowd “But it feels like she’s here tonight.” Whether or not her friend was watching, a vibrant spirit filled the space.
Garbed in all white amidst a band of black, Basia was a shining beacon in the darkness. Drawn to the light, the crowd roared in support with every step. Her performance pulsed with a flowing ebb. Promise Not to Think About Love found her traipsing around the stage with a schoolgirl’s charm, while Gold Rush coursed with stampeding drums, lifted by her soaring vibrato before caving to a twinkling autoharp solo. Paris or Amsterdam whispered a potent intimacy, underscored by a wistful acoustic plucking, while the fast paced hummingbird handclaps of I Was a Daughter caused the audience to enthusiastically clap in unison
Toronto born, Basia’s comfort shone through and the audience welcomed her home with open arms. Wires burst forth with a locomotive momentum, driven by crashing drums. Wielding a vocoder, she playfully danced across the stage, hopping down to sit in a spare front row seat. Scrambling back to centre stage she collapsed, mic in hand, rising to a crescendo. “I don’t like it when we get towards the end of a set list” she purred to a sea of heartfelt sympathy “I’ve been playing for an hour and I still can’t believe I’m here.” Ditching the microphone, she launched into a hauntingly wavering acoustic rendition of It Can’t Be You that spurred a standing ovation.
Humble and earnest, confident and proud, Bulat was a delight from the moment she took the stage. With an endearing openness and all-consuming enthusiasm, she captivated the hall effortlessly. If anyone left that room unfulfilled, they clearly weren’t listening. For someone so slight, her performance casts a Tall Tall Shadow indeed.