2023 was a massive year for local favourite Adam Baldwin. Hot on the heels of his 2022 release Concertos & Serenades, Adam announced two headlining shows at the local soft-seater the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium as part of his tour of the Maritimes. This was something of a departure from his earlier and more raucous work which saw him playing the Marquee Ballroom and Seahorse Tavern stages. Still, his latest effort deserved to be showcased in more staid and intimate venues such as the Cohn and the Capitol in Moncton.
The remainder of the year saw Adam touring on the other side of the pond alongside a pair of notable East Coasters Matt Andersen and Alan Doyle. Needless to say, it was a busy year for the talented singer-songwriter. Then there was the early Christmas present that came in the form of a December tour announcement, a tour that would see Adam and his talented band The Jenny Wren headline a pair of shows at the Light House Arts Centre.
A soft-seater show comes with an implicit expectation that folks are going to quietly sit and take in the action on stage. Similarly, when you attend a show at a room such as the Carleton, that expectation is explicitly stated by Mike Campbell himself, but in a room such as the Light House, one would hope that folks are there to enjoy the show but there is no set expectation. Unfortunately, on this night the crowd was abnormally chatty and this room could have certainly used a scolding from Mike, as the chatter was distracting during Mariel Buckley’s dusty sun-drenched opening set which was loaded with country-leaning folk tunes.
Mariel’s set was fantastic, she proclaimed her material to be country music for the mentally ill. She was honoured to be tapped to be the supporting act on these December dates with the wealth of talent she recognizes is here already, not to mention that Adam is one of her favourite songwriters. The folks who were listening were treated to a set of infectious folky tunes that warmly wrapped themselves around the listener and held them tight. Buckley brought along slide guitarist Ryan Funk to join her on the trek east, and local favourites Serge Sampson and Geoff Arsenault rounded out the band.
Then it was time for Adam Baldwin and the Jenny Wren to hit the stage, it was immediately apparent that the Jenny Wren was welcoming a talented friend to the fold for these Halifax shows. The incomparable Kendel Carson brought along her fiddle and guitar to join Zach MacLean, Tori Cameron, R.C. Stanley and Jordan Murphy, better known as The Jenny Wren.
Adam’s set showcased his latest album Concertos & Serenades, but also worked in some special cuts on these final dates on his 2023 tour. Halifax was treated to a pair of new tracks such as “Billy Club Soiree” and “Western Star”, the Baldwin pre-requisite “Love You With My Eyes Closed” kicked off the encore, then Kendel stepped into the spotlight to perform Bonnie Raitt’s spin on the John Prine gem “Angel of Montgomery” with Tori providing backing vocals, which naturally gave way to Adam’s raucous “Bonnie Raitt”. As if the talented artist hadn’t already pulled every rabbit from his hat, Adam and the Jenny Wren break out the Spirit of the West’s “And if Venice is Sinking” to put a cherry on a near-perfect night.
In all fairness to the chatty crowd, some folks I was chatting with had expected a more raucous and energetic set with Adam centre stage with his guitar in hand as it was a general admission show with seats to the back of the room, instead it was a soft seater-esque show with Adam playing his heart out on the piano at the side of the stage, that we were treated to. That still does not excuse the disrespect shown to Adam, Mariel and all of the talented folks on the Light House stage by the chatty crowd. Aside from that distraction, it was a night showcasing a well-known East Coast fact in that we have one of the best songwriters in the country living amongst us here in Nova Scotia, and this was a night that continues to showcase why we are richer when talented songwriters such as Adam Baldwin exist in our world.
Adam Baldwin & The Jenny Wren