There was no shortage of options for the concert-goer on this October 13th (a Friday no less) in Halifax, with the Doobie Brothers playing less than a stone’s throw away at the Scotiabank Centre. Down the hill, the Light House Arts Centre featured a potent folky singer-songwriter bill with Kellie Loder providing opening support for the self-deprecating storyteller and emotionally charged songwriter Donovan Woods.
This was a definite night to break out the seats within the Light House Arts Centre concert hall, as the night consisted of little more than a mic stand, a total of 5 guitars (4 of which were played) and the two aforementioned singer-songwriters. While this room was easily the smaller of the two packed concert venues, the easy money was on the Light House stage to house the more emotionally devastating performances of the evening.
Kellie Loder’s set was charming and engaging, loaded with warmth and personality. At times the audience was mostly held rapt during Loder’s performance, as their atmospheric delivery bore shades of Sarah McLachlan and Anne Murray. While the entire set was a revelation, it was the honesty and pain that Loder lay bare on the powerful “Molded Like a Monster” that showcased their undeniable star power. While only a mere 5 songs, Kellie’s set left an inedible mark on this concert-goer, in the same way in 2014 that Donovan did the very same thing opening for Matt Andersen. The audience leapt to their feet to award the NL songwriter with a standing ovation as they exited the stage.
After a quick changeover, Donovan strolled on stage and picked up his guitar. Instead of launching into his set, with some signature dance moves, he did what he does best and jumped right into host/comedian mode, started telling stories and joking with the audience. He talked about the fact that he flew into Charlottetown to kick the tour off, right out of Seattle (with a definite wink), as he let us in on the fact that there was indeed a stop in Toronto before making his way to the Potato province (but we would all be using it if that Seattle to Charlottetown pipeline existed).
Donovan continued on to say that one of his initial visits to Charlottetown was back in 2014 on his tour with Matt Andersen. The tourmates had a legendary night at Lord Beaverbrook where they not only closed the bar down but also had their noteworthy bar tab published in the paper the following day.
It was a set loaded with favourites but intermingled with a slew of songs from Woods’ upcoming album. It was also a night of gratitude, as Woods joked later in the set that if he walked into a room and saw someone like him playing, he’d turn right around and get the hell out of there, but was grateful for those of us who chose to spend a Friday night watching him play these somewhat sad songs. For some of us, this was not the first time catching Donovan Woods live and we had this night circled on our calendar for weeks. That sentiment was no more true than for one concertgoer who got welcomed on stage by Donovan to perform “I Ain’t Ever Loved No One” and she absolutely crushed her performance (one that was performed by Tenille Townes) and received a standing ovation for her efforts.
The main set was fantastic, but the final one-two punch was a pairing of new and old. First up was a cut from the new record, that reminded me of Bahamas in terms of some of the phrasing, but the closing cut of the evening was from Donovan’s 2018 breakthrough album Both Ways, entitled “Next Year”. This is a song that holds a special spot in this writer’s heart, as it is one of only a handful of songs that hits right in the feels, to a point that the eyes well up every time (Old Man Luedecke’s “Early Days”, and Terra Spencer’s “VHS”, being the others).