Tired Harmer tepid

By David Kenney

     I thank my lucky stars tonight that you are here
Your eyes so blue so bright
Good fortune’s found me out

-"Good Fortune," Weeping Tile

     Last Thursday night, Sarah Harmer was more than thankful. Playing a sold-out MacEwan Hall Ballroom, the former Weeping Tile singer was just a tad tepid. She’s not used to crowds.

"I forget there are 650 people watching us," the quiet folk singer said, a little embarrassed.

She’d better get used to it. Since her last Calgary outing in November, the Kingston native’s stock has tripled. Her songs "Basement Apartment" and "Don’t Get Your Back Up" are flipping around the radio dial and her videos are in rotation on MuchMusic. Once an indie darling, Harmer’s original solo debut You Were Here crossed the border and and made Time’s top 10 albums of 2000. Harmer earned two Juno award nominations in her native Canada. By now, she must be tired.

Thursday night, signs of wear on the non-stop touring machine showed. While her songbird vocals were in their regular stellar shape, her enthusiasm waned.

Starting the show with the manipulation ode "Weakened State," Harmer took until mid-set to churn her folk pop groove. Her cover of "Lucky Numbers" jolted alive her set into regular Harmer force.

Surprisingly, Harmer seemed more energetic playing covers like the thrift-store stomper "Mercy Bin," the pastoral "Olejander" and the creepy rendition of Bob Dylan’s "Long Black Coat."

Not to say her own songs were lifeless. Her previous shows at Quincy’s and Edmonton’s The Rev did benefit from better sound versus the wobbliness of the Ballroom. Old faves still pleased such as You Were Here’s spunky and plunky "Around this Corner" and Harmer’s Swan Lake opus "Lodestar."

The clamour for her new songs from new fans was obvious as Harmer missed a few Weeping Tile classics, including "South of Me" and "Judy G." Most disappointing was Harmer’s omission of the lovely hard-luck-farm-life ballad "Trouble in the Fields" from her cover album Songs for Clem.

Regardless, Harmer endeared herself to the folks who clamoured to see her. Each crowd member was a character in her song and it showed with each aching expression and held note. The shoulder-length, curly-haired brunette made it easy to forget the other 649 people around, creating as much intimacy as possible in the Ballroom.

At the start of the encore, a fan handed Harmer a note asking her to play crowd favourite "Dogs and Thunder." Obliging, Harmer left the crowd ready for another set–hopefully sooner than later. Here’s another note to Harmer: play this year’s folk-fest, rested and ready to overwhelm us like Martin Sexton did last year.