Concert Review: Hayden, November 30, Danforth Music Hall

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There’s something special about a hometown show. Hayden, returning to the music scene on the Arts and Crafts label after a four-year gap, has made 2013 his “comeback year.” I’ve been a fan since my university days (early 2000’s) and was surprised and excited when Us Alone dropped this year. Prior to this year, I’d only seen Hayden play once at Lee’s Palace during his Elk Lake tour in 2004. This year, I had the pleasure of seeing him play Arts and Crafts’ Field Trip fest in the summer, his Dundas Square set opening for the National and he also popped up as a special guest at a Cuff the Duke show at the Dakota. But a full headlining show at Danforth Music Hall on Saturday was truly something wonderful.

The atmosphere was warm and welcoming when Hayden and band took the stage. Hayden seemed relaxed and at one point, commented with a smile that he got “lost in the moment and just enjoyed it” during an extended piano solo in “Motel.”

The set list was a balanced selection of old and new songs, where some songs were preceded by amusing anecdotes (ie. “This is a song about a home invasion…”). The introduction to “Woody” (a song about the family cat who has gone missing several times but later returned) turned into a detailed and hilarious story about a strange woman in the neighbourhood who “kidnapped” people’s cats, but also dismantled Hayden’s front porch, piece by piece over the summer. I’ve always been appreciative of Hayden’s dry wit and self-deprecating humour, which many reviewers seem to overlook and instead focus on his serious, earnest delivery.

Old favourites were obviously well-received – “Between Us To Hold,” “Carried Away” (which prompted a lovely audience singalong) and set closer “Dynamite Walls” were stand-outs.

For the encore, the band reassembled, joined by Wayne Petti from Cuff the Duke on vocals and guitar. Hayden thanked the audience and introduced the next song as a Neil Young cover. They launched into a rousing rendition of “Powderfinger,” which felt like the most perfect song that Hayden could possibly cover. The show ended with an arm-in-arm acoustic singalong of “Don’t Get Down” with openers Doug Paisley and Reuben and the Dark. Danforth Music Hall may be a large theatre, but the intimate and heartwarming feeling of this performance felt like catching up with an old friend.

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Posted on by Wini Lo in Concerts

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