On Saturday, December 15, Chantal Kreviazuk, backed by the always-wonderful Victoria Symphony, provided a charming evening of music and laughter. Falling firmly into the Joni Mitchell singer-songwriter tradition, Kreviazuk revealed wonderful depths to her music.
My main contact with Kreviazuk’s music came via her videos on Much Music in the mid- to late-90s. I lived in Winnipeg during many of those years, and she was a beloved hometown girl. She was also incredibly precocious: barely into her 20s, she enjoyed staggering success across Canada and into the U.S. Most Canadians – including “hardened” alternative types like myself – were bewitched by her talent and beauty.
Classically-trained, Kreviazuk’s catalogue lends itself to arrangements with an orchestra. What are smaller trills and runs on a single piano in the original single, become lush and lovely when fleshed out by a string and horn section. Songs like “Feels Like Home,” “Surrounded” and “Wayne” become anthems of intimacy. Kreviazuk had help arranging her music for orchestra, from names like Shelly Burger, Bryden Baird, Jim Mcgrath and a member of her own backing band, Kevin Fox. Kudos to them for successfully transitioning hummable pop songs to the classical concert hall.
By far, the most entertaining portion of Kreviazuk’s performance was her stage banter. She is a very funny performer, self-deprecating, saucy and moving. Lines like “Your marriage is not my fault!” poked fun at her status as a go-to choice for dances at wedding receptions. “I just keep forgetting to record a new album” defused any tension around the fact that her recording pace has diminished in recent years. In fact, Kreviazuk at times came across as quite troubled by the fact that her recent output compares to that of her younger self. She was refreshingly honest about being intimidated by the prowess of Chantal-at-22.
Kreviazuk’s visible restlessness gave added depth to a lovely evening. She is still a vibrant, working artist who appears to be at a crossroads in her career. She is aware that she has much more to give, artistically, but comes across as a dedicated mother happy to stay at home with her children. I trust that her restlessness, played out before loving audiences, leads her into the next productive chapter of her career. In the meantime, singing before first-rate symphonies like the VS are a fine holding pattern.
By Brent Schaus