Admittedly I wasn’t familiar with Rex when I met him, and when I asked him about him and his music he wasted no time in letting me know that he’d been a contestant on Canadian Idol and had experienced some very enviable success as a result.
I immediately felt stupid and awkward, having been someone who’s never watched an episode of Idol, but Rex was the text book professional and laughed with me, assuring me it was alright.
Rex began the evening and from the get-go I can tell why this guy was not only a contender in Canadian Idol, but had well deserved the successes he has experienced since. This guy is one of the better live male singers I’ve heard in a very long time, and his songs have that rocky Daughtry-esque sense about them, but still have that texture of delicious acoustic Canadiana. As he would play each song, he kept his audience captivated; while between songs to adjust tuning (remember, the night was hot as heck) or put his guitar into an altogether different tuning, he would share amusing banter about his life and his romances, leaving the audience not waiting in silence as he tuned his guitar, a mistake made more often than not by lesser artists of his style.
I honestly felt like a dolt for not having known this great performer before last night, but after his opening set, he made a fan out of me.
The main attraction was up next: Billy the Kid and her band.
Anyone familiar with Billy’s music will already know about her catchy melodies, contagious rhythms and captivating singing voice, and last night was no different as she owned the room from first note to last.
Being a very hot Tuesday night show, the audience turn out could have been better, but that didn’t slow her down one step. At one point Billy even held her own show hostage 30 seconds in to the first song, proclaiming she will just keep playing the same two chords all night until everyone stood up and came to the stage; this is a tactic tried by many performers and rarely sees positive results, but damn if suddenly everyone in the bar, myself included, didn’t suddenly find themselves standing at the edge of the stage taking in the night up close and personal.
Apart from her EP The Lost Cause and her work with Billy and The Lost Boys, I’ve usually only heard Billy performing solo with a guitar or piano, so the added treat of a band behind her really kicked the show up and made every song even more of a treat.
Witty banter continued all throughout the night, whether it was Billy wanting the audience to clap along with the music, or restarting a song after a missed entrance, sarcastically explaining with a smirk “sorry, my band’s high on drugs”, the show was entertaining beyond only musically. There’s a charisma that owns the room with this artist and even the typical chatterboxes who come to bars would shut up and listen after a few seconds into each song.
Despite how entertaining the stage banter was, though, the music of Billy the Kid still is what brought everyone out on a scorching hot night and into a little basement bar. All set Billy and her band put everything they had into the music, driving home the “sometimes life is tough” message that Billy sympathizes with us, but also making the music fun and enjoyable to be a part of.
To anyone who missed Billy the Kid at The Dakota Tavern last night, shame on you but you do have a chance to redeem yourself, as she’ll be back on Tuesday July 13th; if you are a fan of rootsie, real Canadian indie music then you owe it to yourself to be there next week.