Martha Wainwright @ The Rio Theatre – March 9th 2013


As far as music venues go, the Rio Theatre is an interesting one. It is one of Vancouver’s oldest Theatres but is better known for their late-night screenings of pop-culture classics than concerts. Upon entering the sold-out theatre, I was rather overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people occupying the quaint lobby space. I was instantly bemused by the sight of the people holding beers and popcorn- something I would expect at a Canucks game but not so much at an indie folk-rock concert.

Once inside the theatre itself it was rather challenging to find a seat. Typically, I love general admission (GA) seating. It lessens the Ticketmaster 10am craze for particular seats and encourages individuals to grab a solo ticket and meet up with those already going to the show without being relegated to a solo seat somewhere in the venue. That said, on this particular night GA seating was a nightmare. The theatre was packed, and it was difficult to find even one spare seat. In fact, I got bumped from the empty seat I chose to occupy not just once but twice! I ended up paranoid of another confrontation all the way through the opener before I could finally relax about it. Do people no longer leave any indication on a vacant seat that it has been taken? Also surprising about this particular show was the age of the crowd.

I am not sure what sort of turnout I expected for Martha Wainwright but at 26 I have lately been finding myself on the older end of the concert-going crowds and here I was a mere child at an adult show. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed attending a gig where iPhones did not light up the faces of attendees all night, chatter did not drown out the artist speaking or during slower songs and everyone around me really was there for Martha, for her beautiful talent and unique style. Once the lights dimmed and Martha took the stage, I was instantly pulled back into her world. She has not played a Vancouver show in quite some time & her fans who packed the Rio were on the edges of their seats, buzzing with anticipation before she took to the stage. On my right sat a British gentleman, new to Vancouver. On my left two older men who were equally excited to have the opportunity to see Martha Wainwright perform live. And I don’t think anyone could have possibly left the theatre disappointed.

Martha Wainwright has a remarkable stage presence. She sucks her audience in & you can’t help but be transfixed by her voice and her quirky, enchanting spirit. One of the funniest moments of the show was when Martha showed her curiosity and surprise at the fact that there was a server actually walking up and down the aisles selling drinks during the show. The hostess graciously offered Martha a beer on the house and the packed crowd erupted in laughter over their witty, candid exchange. She played for nearly an hour and a half and yet the time seemed to fly by. She took her audience on a brilliant, varied ride, weaving her newer and older material together to create a masterpiece set list. I love hearing artists speak about where inspiration for a particular song came from, or giving more insight into what a song is about & Martha treated her audience with just the right dose of background and let them into some of the profound impact her mother had on her musical career. With her husband on piano, she also treated us to a couple songs in French. Knowing that the French language is foreign to most west-coasters, she let us know what exactly she was singing about and gave extremely captivating, dramatic performances of some very beautiful songs. The charisma she brings to her performances makes her transitions between musical styles seamless. She really is a master of her craft. Although I have a soft spot for her older work, after this show, I have developed a deeper love and appreciation for her newest album, Come Home to Mama, which, I was very happy to find out is also available in vinyl. I feel so very fortunate to have been able to spend my evening basking in her presence and beautiful artistry.

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