By Lethbridge Herald on December 9, 2016.
Alberta native wows a city audience on Christmas tour
Review by Al Beeber
Letâ€™s get this stated right off the bat â€” Jann Arden is a national treasure. The 54-year-old Springbank native is an artist I would actually bow to if I thought there was a good chance I could straighten up again without a helping hand.
And Iâ€™m sure many among the 1,200 adoring fans who braved a chilly December night to watch her perform Tuesday night at the Enmax Centre would agree.
Arden, whose father (surname Richards) grew up in Lethbridge, did not just stage a performance â€” she treated the audience like they were close friends joining her at home for an intimate evening of music, laughter and storytelling.
An eight-time Juno Award winner who also has a star on Canadaâ€™s own Walk of Fame, Arden performed a mixture of Christmas classics and her hits backed up by a superb four-person band which includes Juillard-educated multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Allison Cornell, who wowed the audience with her own talents when Arden gave each of her gifted associates their own moment in the spotlight.
Arden opened the show on a stage decorated appropriately with Christmas trees and colourful wrapped boxes with the holiday standard â€œMost Wonderful Time of the Yearâ€ before telling the audience that “itâ€™s starting to feel Christmasy.â€
Arden explained the Christmas tour was assembled quickly and Lethbridge â€” where she still has family â€” was put on it because she hadnâ€™t been here for awhile.
She joked often with the crowd, telling them to touch the thigh of the person beside them and â€œdrink liquor if youâ€™ve got it.â€
She related to the audience by telling tales of her Costco experiences, including walking in one day recently to buy eggs and coming out with $312 worth of stuff including a five-and-a-half-foot-tall pepper mill.
She got the crowd laughing by regaling them with stories her father told her about running across the â€œgoddamnâ€ High Level Bridge in his youth after a poignant version of â€œIâ€™ll Be Home for Christmas.â€
Through the show, which included a brief intermission for the diverse crowd that spanned several generations, she played songs from her extensive catalogue such as â€œSleepless,â€ â€œWaiting in Canada,â€ and â€œInsensitiveâ€ interspersed with holiday classics including a tear-jerking, inspirational version of John Lennon’s â€œThe War is Over,â€ a song that had the audience in an awed silence.
She also performed a Christmas tune of her own, â€œMake it Christmas Day,â€ which she wrote at 19 while living in her parentsâ€™ basement and recorded 20 years later.
She opened the second half of the show with Brenda Leeâ€™s â€œRocking Around the Christmas Tree.â€ She followed that up with a song recorded in 1994 at a studio owned by Jackson Browne, drawing laughter when she told how her producer suggested that maybe he could get the singer to add his vocals to one song.
Browne, who was involved with actress Darryl Hannah in a stormy relationship at the time, wouldnâ€™t do it, Arden recalled herself saying. Her producer told her that since Hannah â€œis beating the s@#t out of him, he just might.â€ And alas, he did.
That kind of storytelling makes Arden absolutely endearing. She has a keen sense of humour and comic timing and held nothing back, even dropping the occasional f-bomb during the show and telling a story how her nipples wouldnâ€™t be allowed on Air Canada after being in Lethbridgeâ€™s cold this week.
She joked about menopause and onesies that had the Enmax bowl echoing in laughter but she also touched audience souls deeply with her emotional, heart-wrenching material such as the song Browne appeared on called â€œUnlovedâ€ which had her band at its best.
And tears surely flowed when she performed a song she heard country superstar Reba McEntire sing in Las Vegas called â€œJust Like Them Horsesâ€ which helped her heal after the deaths of her parents.
After a soulful version of â€œO Holy Night,â€ she had the audience join her in singing Happy Birthday to her 80-year-old aunt Max who thanked her from somewhere in the lower tier of seats.
Fittingly, with family in the audience and fans who felt like they were family, she closed the show with her hit â€œGood Mother,â€ an absolutely superb way to end a magical evening with a Canadian star and a genuine human being.
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