Serena Ryder

Serena Ryder

with Shaun Kirk, and Matt Andersen

Shaun Kirk has the uneasy job of opening for the opening acts, but quickly has the audience well on side. His songs draw some lovely images (“…way down south, where it slows in the summertime...”), more painter than troubadour.

Serena Ryder

After that, Shaun transforms effortlessly from painter to blacksmith, the audience from canvas to anvil. Each use of voice, guitar, or those umpteenth pedals at his feet becomes a brutal strike of sonic intent. And he wonders out aloud why no one is standing close to the stage? It’s difficult, Shaun, when the man with the guitar has turned the venue into a foundry.

Serena Ryder

It makes it all the more remarkable that Matt Andersen draws the audience closer to the stage because, jinkies, does he has a powerful voice.

Earlier, I meet a guy from Matt’s town of Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada. Now, during Matt’s set, barely able to take notes I scrawl, “Guy was right.”

Because the guy was right: Matt Andersen is incendiary.

More Merlin than magician, his songs aren’t parlour tricks as they are a kind of deeper conjuring. Songs like ‘Between The Lines’, ‘Make You Stay’, and, ‘Have You Got The Blues’, prove Matt’s not content with observing his environment as he is in exploring the more treacherous geography of the heart.

His speed and skill on the guitar is wild, moments where he leans back and howls are glorious. Just when you think he can carry all of this night away on his shoulders, he’s finished, and the curtains slide across the stage. We wait for Serena.

Serena Ryder

Without warning, the curtains go and Serena Ryder is already singing, no time to waste.

The band is poised to strike, but this wee moment of acapella is an intimate beginning. It foreshadows the end of the show, but also serves to highlight the moral for her entire performance: connection.

One way we connect with people is through play, and there’s certainly a strong element of play throughout. ‘For You’ is a fantastic number, sounding like it fell off the back of a James Bond soundtrack. ‘Circle Of The Sun’ is play at its most explicit, as after a brisk set of instructions, Serena soon has the room making pumping hearts with their hands and swinging their arms high and around in exaltation. ‘Merry Go Round’ is another wee gem before the band leaves for a time, letting Serena tackle a few of her tracks solo.

‘Please Baby Please’ I would offer as the best of the bunch. There’s something about the opening line, “You left the window glass broken,” that sticks. It’s an image that while unsettling is also familiar. During the rest of the lyrics, other fragments and sentiments are surely just as familiar for everyone watching. The fragility Serena conveys with her gentle call of “Please, Baby, please. Come back to me.” turns the song into something shared. Connection.

Which is the point, isn’t it? This is a communion of sorts, a gift. One offered a final time by Serena when she comes out in a brief encore, again acapella, with ‘Sing Sing’. Then, as quickly as the curtains opened for her an hour before, she’s gone. Marvellous.

Check out Serena’s effort in the Studio Q sessions for a fine example of her work:
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