Photographs by Neil Van.
Vanessa Carlton’s 2002 hit “A Thousand Miles,” is a career-defining moment impossible to escape, overshadowing each step Carlton has taken since. The Pennsylvanian-born singer-songwriter has spent more than a decade evolving from the glossy pop of her debut album, Be Not Nobody, for more introspective indie.
Returning to Toronto’s Mod Club Wednesday night, with her latest, Liberman, released on Toronto’s own Dine Alone Records. For most it was a chance to hear the benchmark single, that’s defined Carlton in the masses’ collective memory, but what they left with was an all together different impression.
Carlton’s set like her music was carefully planned, structured to showcase her new, critically beloved album, and give fans a taste of the old ‘classics.’ Opening with a medly of “Carousel” and Learning To Fly, a Tom Petty staple, Carlton’s honey-soaked vocals and stroked piano keys felt immediately familiar.
From the outset, anecdotes of her younger brother’s humiliation over lyrics in “White Houses” and the inspiration behind Liberman, coloured the already rich storytelling of her music. Sonically more lush, and dense than her previous work Carlton showcased her new material in the middle of the set, with the robust, “Take It Easy” and soulful “Blue Pool” among them.
Accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Skye Steele, Carlton’s live takes on Liberman, while missing the layered vocals and reverb-heavy production, still felt lush and bold on “Willow,” and “Operator.”
Wrapping her set with more tracks from her previous album Rabbits On The Run, and “A Thousand Miles,” because as Carlton said, she’s “nice,” giving fans what they wanted. The thirtysomething, new mother seemed at ease with her past, but eager and willing to share her life now and of how Liberman came to be. Bringing fans into her new music. Carlton has certainly moved beyond her pop beginnings into one of the best indie auteurs in music.