Prior to her set at Toronto’s Mod Club Theatre, the ”Tour Archive” page on Kina Grannis’ website lists a handful of 2015 shows from cities across Asia – Taipei, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Manila – all of which never actually happened. Instead, Grannis and her band spent all of this time, and more, in the first of their Asian destinations, Jakarta. 100 days to be precise, due to Visa complications that left them detained in the Indonesian capital. And so with hearty enthusiasm, Toronto welcomed a well missed Kina Grannis back to the stage.
Grannis’ husband, Jesse Epstein, who goes by the moniker Imaginary Futures, opened the evening with a calm, acoustic singer-songwriter set very similar in style to his significant other. Simple guitar patterns framed his melancholic and breathy vocals that moved from sultry lows to fragile falsettos
Grannis brought a simple stage set up to the Mod Club – mic stand, acoustic guitar, a few spotlights, and an overwhelming sense of calm. The crowd treated her set with the utmost respect, emitting complete silence and enrapturement during each of her songs.
Simple and sweet with a voice betraying emotion and vulnerability, she performed selections of her discography, including “For Now”, one of two songs written during her detainment in South East Asia. This is a deeply personal song, which came to her at a moment of clarity when she realized that despite her current predicament, she was alive and her loved ones were safe. Overcome with emotion, Grannis paused during the song’s second verse to recollect herself. As she finished the tune, she wiped at her watering eyes, and then apologetically replayed the missing verse.
Despite the calm and introspective nature of the evening, Grannis injected some fun through a jazzy, syncopated, and classily sassy cover of Britney Spears’ “Oops I Did It Again”. “Message From Your Heart”, a clear crowd favourite, was prefaced by a thank you to the 2008 Doritos ‘Crash the Superbowl’ contest, which jumpstarted her career. The fact that even after all these years she stills gives a shout-out to the brand is a marketer’s dream.
Though her set was plagued by a few hiccups – incorrect guitar tunings, forgotten chord progressions, and missed timing, all of which are typical side effects of a year and a half off the road – she brushed it off with lovable, self deprecating humour. Grannis often addressed the crowd in a heartfelt manner. “We’re here for this speck of time in all of existence and somehow, our lives overlapped. I feel so grateful that you guys have come into my life. I’m so grateful for you.” The crowd was obviously grateful to her as well, as they cheered and “aaaaawed” her through every misstep.
For her last two selections of the evening, Grannis performed a lovely cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You”, and invited her opener/husband, Imaginary Future back onstage for a performance of “I Knew This Would Be Love” – the only song they’ve ever cowritten together.