Arden delivers top-notch performance during City stop

Singer/songwriter Jann Arden continues to offer fans a completely enjoyable live listening experience, fueled by her terrific tunes, compelling voice and searing sense of humour.

She performed at the Memorial Centre last week to a packed house, showcasing cuts from her latest CD Uncover Me 2.

Wisely, she peppered the show with plenty of classics from past projects as well, including the haunting, beautiful sensibilities of The Sound Of, Saved, I Would Die for You and the exquisite Waiting in Canada and Sleepless from 2000’s Blood Red Cherry CD.

She also tackled Wonderdrug from 1994’s breakthrough disc Living Under June, and wrapped up the evening with a stellar rendition of Good Mother from that same CD.

Her albums over the past few years haven’t spurred the attention they perhaps should have, so it was a treat to hear the riveting Where No One Knows Me from 2005’s self-titled disc and The Devil Won from 2009’s Free.

Arden isn’t just a gifted performer, she is absolutely comfortable engaging with her audiences. Her sense of humour empowered an already solid show – revealing how interesting and rather complex she is. Arden is known for her songs of melancholy and heartbreak – she’s never been one to offer up much in the way of upbeat, peppy radio-friendly and commercial hits. Rather, most of her work is a rich tapestry of soul-searching, notions of stark disappointment in love and pain stemming from the dark sides of the human experience in general.

One of the highlights of the night was her performance of Insensitive – a song which she explained dramatically changed her life particularly in a professional way. The song was a major hit around the world and catapulted her to stardom. And it all started in such an unexpected, unassuming way. She heard the framework of the tune being played on the piano by a neighbour songwriter in Calgary – and she never forgot it.

She wanted the song to be on her debut CD Time for Mercy in 1993, but it would have to wait until Living Under June – in retrospect, a better fit for the tune anyways. The song also speaks to Arden’s longevity as an artist – not only does she write songs that are universal and timeless in their messages to us, she selects songs from other writers that fall in that same category. Another cut, the lovely and moving Ode to a Friend from the Happy? CD was a joy to hear – Arden explained the song was selected for the tour because she asked folks via twitter what should make up the set list and that tune landed at the top of the heap.

Which brings me to her latest disc – Uncover Me 2. It’s packed with gems from the past and is a kind of sequel to Uncover Me which was released in early 2007 to popular and critical acclaim. Arden takes the legendary songs and clearly makes them her own. Audiences were treated to fabulous interpretations of You Don’t Own Me, In My Room, Misty Blue and Is That All There Is?

Opening the show was the talented Winnipeg-based duo Keith Macpherson and Renee Lamoureux (better known simply as Keith and Renee) who have been merging their singer/songwriter abilities since 1997.

They shared a few outstanding cuts, showcasing their latest disc, their fifth, Best Day. The pair had a relaxed, easy rapport with the audience and were clearly enjoying themselves as they effortlessly offered up powerful renditions of Best Day, Crying, and the immensely personal and touching Wildflower.