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Intimate and Interactive - Hayden @ Le National Jan. 20

Posted by Jer / January 22, 2008

In the mid 90s, in Kingston, Ontario, university pubs and dorm rooms were filled with guys with guitars trying to be Hayden. I'm sure this wasn't just limited to Kingston, or campuses, though there's nothing like a full schedule of classes and reading to encourage procrastination by way of learning the guitar. In fact, I can picture a sizable army of amateurs across the country trying to master songs from Hayden's Everything I Long For so they could show them off at loud house parties or use them to woo mates in quiet bedrooms.

Hayden's intensely personal songs almost invite this kind of behaviour. Because there's usually a "me" or a "you" that the listener thinks is them, it's no wonder so many people tried to express themselves through his songs. When he introduced the hopelessly romantic "Stem" at Le National on Sunday, he reminded the audience he wrote it over 15 years ago. It took him back a decade, and by extension, the audience.

Hayden is currently touring his latest album In Field & Town. His songs and songwriting have changed substantially since his debut, but he still delivers perceptive 3-minute insights, packed with mixed emotions and oddball characters. In addition to sharing some new ditties he cycled through tracks from every other album in his catalogue. It was like a greatest hits show, much to the delight of those now grown up guitarists.

Hayden's between song banter, shy and self-deprecating, is always a treat to witness. That's not to say Hayden is depressing or serious (though with songs about losing an ex-love to a bear attack, you'd be forgiven for classifying him as such). Many of his songs have funny subjects and happy melodies. How many artists do you know who sing about their cat with a case of feline herpes? But the gravity of Hayden's voice calls even the happiest of his songs into question. His lyrics leave you wondering whether you should smile or sigh. At one point, Hayden told the crowd that it was time to lighten things up. Then he played a song called "Lonely Security Guard". I guess that qualifies as "light" in Hayden's world.

Admittedly, Hayden was having an off-night musically. He messed up the chords on several songs, consistently forgot lyrics, and even had to stop a song halfway through and restart it. The crowd didn't care. They filled in the lyrics and told him to carry on. While Hayden appeared genuinely embarrassed, the crowd seemed touched by the intimacy his missteps brought about. Maybe it was because they were used to hearing their friends screw up those same songs years ago.

London, Ontario's Basia Bulat opened the night. I only caught the last 12 breaths of her show, so I'll save you my opinions on the songstress that music blogs are hailing as the next Feist. She joined Hayden for one of his encores but he hardly needed any back up. Hayden takes his time between albums, but fans tolerate the 2 and 3 year lulls because the result is usually worth the wait. Judging by Sunday's reception to the new songs, mistakes and all, In Field & Town is no exception.

Check out In Field & Town here, at your local record store, or at your nearest iTunes digital thingymajiggy.

since none of my pics turned out, the photo of hayden comes courtesy of his press page at canvas media

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