Over the November break, I had the great pleasure of attending Andy Shauf’s show, in one of the last stops on the Estevan-born artist’s tour for his 2016 album, The Party. The event was promising — the first concert at the newly decked-out Roxy Theatre, now sporting a light-and-sound system to wow the crowds.
The show, a collaboration between the Roxy and Village Guitar and Amp, was sponsored and presented by Shift Development, a residential and commercial developer based in Riversdale and the team behind The Two Twenty, a coworking space on 20th Street West that features Collective Coffee. The concert supported the Saskatoon Friendship Inn, a community centre that provides programs and food services free of charge to the surrounding community.
The evening, which featured a boat-load of 9 Mile Legacy beer, began with works from two poets — including Kevin Wesaquate, founder of the Indigenous Poets’ Society and the artist and writer in residence at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. Wesaquate’s spoken-word offerings — calling forth the brightly burning Saskatchewan night skies and empty Saskatoon winter streets — provided a thematic connection to Shauf’s dulcet tones and lyrics, which make life’s mundane events beautiful.
Audience members were promised that the concert, one of five that Shift will host at the Roxy, would be an “unforgettable” evening. The show was sold out, and while I enjoyed myself, I can’t say that the memory of it will permeate my existence. Although Shauf is a seasoned performer, the show lacked the full-bodiedness so apparent in his studio recordings. At points, Shauf sounded like he was singing underwater, and I found myself drifting into boredom rather than rapture.
In fact, the show got off to a bit of a rocky start. Shauf’s peaceful vocals were all too quiet, and the sound technicians had to make some last-minute adjustments. A number of odd moments later in the evening also featured jarring harmonies and percussion, although I’m unsure whether this was at the fault of the band or the sound team.
If I can say one thing about Shauf — he’s not a conversationalist on stage, jumping swiftly from one song to the next. But his quaint interactions with the audience brought welcome, if brief, moments of amusement to an otherwise serious evening.
In terms of the visual presentation, the stage was well-organized, creating beautiful symmetry with band members on either side of Shauf. I give extra points for not hiding the drummer in the dark recesses at the back of the stage. The lights, while beautiful — especially the deep blues, pinks and oranges flushing the theatre curtains — were poorly timed at numerous points, and occasionally, even blinding. If you want to time lights to music, you’d better do it right, as mistakes will be painfully obvious.
On a final note, I am curious about the future success of the newly re-made Roxy Theatre. Will the potential for more shows by artists like Andy Shauf draw larger audiences to the 20th Street location, bringing a much-needed boost to the theatre and Riversdale, or will it contribute to neighbourhood gentrification and siphon off community resources from businesses like the Broadway Theatre, a venue that already focuses on live music? The answer remains to be seen.
If you’d like to see the Roxy Theatre’s new digs for yourself, check out Shift Development’s next show at 7 p.m. on Nov. 24, featuring the Karpinka Brothers and the Garrys.
Jessica Klaassen-Wright / Editor-in-Chief
Photo: Ahren Klaassen-Wright