Photos by Neil Van
Perched on a few chairs, guitars in hand, with their three kids playing in the back booth, The Weepies turned The Drake Hotel into their living room Friday night. The sold out crowd of superfans were gracious house guests, to say the least.
This was the first Toronto show for the husband and wife folk-pop duo, a surprising statistic considering the band’s fifteen years worth of material. Unlike their last big band tour, which frontwoman Deb Talan described as a “celebration of life”, this tour saw the couple entirely solo and acoustic. The result was a campfire-style performance; a night of storytelling and request- taking.
Known for their songwriting chops and spot-on harmonies, The Weepies are a reincarnation of 60’s folk. Think James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, if they had ended up together. As specialists in the art of synch-licensing, their music has been featured in countless films and TV shows over the past decade, leading to record sales in the millions.
The Massachusetts-born duo writes simple yet spellbinding songs, accompanied by acoustic finger-picking and dreamy vocals. Their songs are often guided by matter-of-fact refrains that say everything while saying almost nothing at all. Like in “Jolene”, when frontman Steve Tannen sings, “I only think about you if it’s raining or it’s not.” Or the title of their most popular tune, “The World Spins Madly On”, a pensive ballad that boldly opens with the statement, “Woke up and wished that I was dead.” Sentiments like these can be found in every chapter of The Weepies’ catalogue, but with only the acoustic guitars to back them on Friday night, the lyrics were the heroes of the performance.
The Drake Hotel crowd – substantially silver-haired – was all in. They sang along proudly to the band’s earliest tunes, which shocked the duo and almost brought Talan to tears. After battling and beating breast cancer, she is now throwing herself into a solo record, to be released next spring on Canadian label Nettwerk Records . She played a few sneak peeks for the eager Toronto audience, admittedly “shaky” about the vulnerability of it all, and was met with adoring praise for her sweet and stirring new material. But nobody was more moved than her bandmate and husband, frontman Steve Tannen, the self-professed “biggest Deb Talan fan in the world.”
He is also an impeccable story teller, both in songwriting and in his pre-song banter. Each number in the two hour set had a story behind it, from an internet porn mishap to an angry song written after a fight that the other decided to morph into a love song (“I think that right there is the secret to marriage,” said Tannen). Fans of their wordy archive “ooed” and “awed” at the true meaning behind those lyrics they had always wondered about. It seemed like every soul in the room had been waiting patiently for fifteen years to finally see The Weepies on Canadian soil. The seven song encore proved the decade and a half worth of anticipation to be entirely worth it. If it weren’t for the venue curfew, they may have never stopped playing.
Between the humble set-up, the open dialogue, and the occasional time out to check in on the kids, The Weepies turned this show into a lasting memory for those lucky enough to have snagged a ticket.