Live Review: Jann Arden and Rick Mercer @ The Centre, Vancouver – May 27th 2024

A little bit of a unique event, long-time hilarious collaborators and icons of the Canadian entertainment landscape, singer/songwriter Jann Arden and comedian/presenter Rick Mercer ended their ‘Will They Or Won’t They’ tour in Vancouver.

As the fairly full crowd filed in to their seats and got settled, an audio introduction by the pair announced (humourously, of course) the rules for the night (take pictures, just don’t flash us, promote the hell out of us, no noisy food, if you don’t know how to access the QR code on the screen, ask the teen next to you…). Said QR code, projected onto a large screen on stage, led folks to a page where they could ask a question of Arden or Mercer to possibly be answered at the end of the show. A five minute countdown to the show start launched on the screen, after which the esteemed Peter Mansbridge (an audio recording at least) introduced the start of the actual show, along with images from Arden and Mercer’s exploits over the course of The Mercer Report show.

Finally Jann Arden and Rick Mercer emerged from opposite sides of the stage, greeted the crowd, embraced each other, then settled into their cushy chairs, between which sat a table with a teapot, water pitcher, and teacups. Behind them, the screens showed a scene through a window of trees, clouds and birds, which subtly changed colour throughout the evening.

The show was a cozy and warm living-room style discussion of how they met, basically by accident after an initial plan in Calgary for a Mercer Report episode fell through, and how that grew into a wonderful and long-standing relationship. The pair gently rib each other while also displaying an obvious affection and friendship as well. When describing that first meeting, Mercer was worried that, based on Arden’s slow and morose tunes, she might be a ‘sad woman showing me a cheese shop’ and that it wouldn’t be a great thing for his show. Arden’s plan of showcasing a local cheese shop went ahead, but ultimately, they ended up at the Olympic park hurtling down a luge track, and it all blossomed from there. Arden had a running joke about the same 17 year old being on staff at every ridiculous daredevil location they filmed at, be it a ski jump or a paintball range. Mercer intoned that any time someone stopped him on the street they would always ask about Arden. “Seeing this woman in peril unites [Canadians].” They told us of a few of those taping sets with a bit of a behind-the-scenes feel, and later on, individually told us a little bit about how they each got into entertainment. They also touched on Mercer’s popular Talking To Americans series, which he remarked they could never do these days because they’d probably get shot for it. The show ended with a few audience questions from the QR code at the beginning of the night.

The two are charming friends, and the night of stories and history was at once touching and warm, and gut-bustingly funny. They really have a way with story-telling in a real and vulnerable and hilarious manner. Who knows if such a tour will be undertaken again, but this was a real treat to watch!

Photos © Andy Scheffler

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