By: Luke Ottenhof (@lukeottenhof) –
Vancouver’s Hannah Georgas took to Ottawa’s National Arts Centre last night, as she warmed hearts and lifted spirits for a solid 90 minutes of electro-pop fun. Crammed with couples huddled around their tables in the NAC’s cozy Fourth Stage, the candle-lit, café-esque room hung from Georgas’ every whim.
Introduced by CBC’s Alan Neal, who hosted the evening, fellow Vancouver songbird Louise Burns tapped the musical keg for the evening. Backed by a three-piece band, Burns wove a tantalizing array of sonic dialects that seemed all at once beckoning and guarded. Her rich, powerful voice was a snug fit for the room; as soon as she sung the inaugural note, ears perked and heads turned. The light waves of surf-rock and synth-pop crashed peacefully against the skeletal makeup of the songs.
Burns captivated the tight-knit mash of chairs, tables and bodies for the hour that she performed. As Neal asserted in his introduction, Burns’ knack for riveting, transformative songwriting took more than a few members for a glassy-eyed trip through the past. “Don’t Like Sunny Days” captured sorrow in all its gloried sweetness, while “Emeralds Shatter” ditched that sweetness, for a more bittered, heavy palate. The smart mix of dreary and fun was a promising start for the evening.
Georgas followed up on that promise. The inspiringly optimistic and similarly jaded songwriter filled the Fourth Stage to a bursting point with tense, indulgent synth beats and ambiance, and then popped the tension with her now-trademark delicate, soothing coo.
Cradling a Gibson ES-335 for most of the tunes, Georgas was an icon of poise and prowess, with healthy injections of lively dancing and yipping. Pacing through the mournful “Robotic” and the ever-danceable “Shortie”, Georgas demonstrated an aptitude for duality, just as Burns did; the tingling churn in your stomach that came from hearing her sing, “Come on, give me hope, tell me anything,” was replaced by vibrations in your toes when the bubblegum chorus of “Shortie” bounces in: “I’m your lover, and I want your lovin’”.
Slowing down the thumping bass drive with the painfully touching “Ode to Mom”, Georgas related how she wrote the song for her mother in the wake of her father’s death. Though intensely personal, the song no doubt held some weight for some members of the audience who had experienced similar anguish. The catharsis of Georgas’ music encourages is a treasure, and one that is rarely cheap or contrived; her songs, her words, her faces, are real and honest.
After disappearing behind the thick, black shroud beside the stage for a moment, Georgas and her band returned to the stage for a two-song encore. Georgas confessed, “I’ve fallen in love with this song,” before asking everyone to stand up, and starting a stomp-and-clap backbeat to help her with a cover of Rihanna’s “Stay”. The barebones tearjerker featured just a simple guitar strum that propped up Georgas’ baleful reminiscence. A song from Georgas’ very first EP, titled “All I Need”, rounded out the sparkling evening, and harmonizing with the night’s quixotic vs. eyes-cast-down fray, the song ended the night on a decidedly simplistic yet upbeat note. Bouncing off the stage once again, the house lights came up, revealing the smiles just about everyone couldn’t hold back.