Live Review: Brooke Fraser; Chicken Soup for the Kiwi Soul

If you’re in Vancouver and you’ve heard of Brook Fraser, then the chances are you’re either Kiwi or a Christian. I should tell you that being a mainstream/Christian artist in New Zealand is rear. We’re not like America so putting “Christian” on your resume doesn’t instantly sell you millions of albums. Quite the opposite, as far as the music industry is concerned, it’s the first strike against you. So to do well you have to be very, very talented (and not say Jesus in your songs), and Brooke Fraser is one talented singer / songwriter.

Anyways, I fall under the ‘Kiwi’ category, and if you didn’t pick up on it already that means I’m from New Zealand (Side note: it’s Kiwi named after the bird, not the fruit). So on Thursday night I donned my ‘NZ Music Month 2008’ T-Shirt and rocked on up to ‘Venue’ feeling stoked for a bit of back home nostalgia. When I arrived a ‘Venue’ I was impressed with how full it was and not just with Kiwi’s, loads of Canadians too.

UK born, Canadian Immigrant Sam Bradley and his band were opening, I’ve never heard them before, but they are a solid group. They have a mainly folk sound and a good dash of rock in there. Not to mention the unapologetically knee slapping country tune ‘Sugar Momma’ written by drummer Mark Kerrey. It was during this song that Brook Fraser and band made their first appearance on stage, just to have a dance around and make general fools of themselves. I was thoroughly impressed with Sam Bradley and thought he deserved his own tour. Apparently a fair few people agreed with me, because at the end of his set a few people left (Vancouver is his adopted home town).

There was still a big crowd waiting for Brooke and in that crowd my T-Shirt was quickly noticed and I got into conversations about back home and about how drivers in Canada stop for pedestrians when you set one foot on the road. Sure it sounds like a good thing, but let me tell you, when you’re not accustomed to it, it takes some getting used to.

With some seasonally appropriate chimes and a drum opening, Brooke came out on stage and blew us away with her beautiful voice. The first thing that struck me though was how laid back she was, and that’s something I love to see in an artist.

The second song in her set was her brand new single ‘Betty’, which is a lot of fun and was a sure hit with a Canadian shout out in the first few lines. Between songs Brooke talked, a lot. She admitted herself, that she loves talking. I’m not complaining though, it’s damn near impossible to not like her as she tells stories of how weird American fans have followed her into the bathroom, or about her father’s rugby team mate that played on with a torn off ear. She never took herself seriously at all, she was honoured by the “Happy Birthday” sign someone had made for her, but then a little weirded out when the fan screamed in delight at her mention of the sign. Her personality transformed the night club into back yard summer BBQ.

If I have one complaint about the night it’s that I didn’t know enough of the songs. I’ve been away from New Zealand for a while and haven’t heard too much of her recent albums. Although I did really enjoy the pretty lullaby ‘Sailboats’. And ‘Albertine’, a surprisingly powerful diary of her time in Rwanda as a ‘World Vision’ ambassador. Brooke mixed it up a bit, by moving from guitar to keys and back to guitar for a couple of unplugged songs with just her backing guitarist, as the rest of the band took five. I could say nothing bad about her or her band, they were on form all night.

As if she needed to win over the crowd any more, she asked that we all sing her ‘Oh Canada’, I did my best to belt out ‘God Defend New Zealand’ but was thoroughly over powered. And then someone had the nerve to yell out “Aussie Aussie Aussie!”. Oh yeah, I forgot she lived there now, Bloody Australians.
After a plug for the charity she is currently supporting. She finished strong with her current biggest single “Something in the Water”. This is an amazing song that has the perfect mix of indie, quirky and catchy for an iPod commercial (seriously I’m surprised it hasn’t been used yet), I recommend you check it out below.

Brooke Fraser is truly Chicken soup for the Kiwi soul, and that was just what I needed on a cold Canadian winters night.

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