It was cold on Thursday. Like, clichéd Canadian cold. (It even snowed, for God’s sake.) Luckily the atmosphere inside Toronto’s intimate Supermarket radiated with genuine warmth.
As Adem took the stage, singing and playing alone on his guitar, all thoughts of winter were left out in the cold. His songs—so intricate and layered on his latest album, Love and Other Planets—were left to stand on their own. I wondered if he could pull off such starkness throughout his entire set. It’s hard to even pick up the guitar on many of his recorded tracks, so could he and his guitar really stand alone?
Yes. There was something affecting and sincere in his performance that won us over. His introspective lyrics and delicate song structures delivered a sense of calm and tranquility that is all too rare at the typical rock show. Although no one would expect a rip-roaring, anthemic blast of sound from Adem, I was still surprised at how emotive and moving the songs became when they were stripped to their bones.
Even if you enjoy an album by a quiet performer, it’s all too easy to write them off, to categorize their music as something that’s “been done” and let it all fade away. But live performances have the capacity to leave a mark, to give you some insight into the mind of the performer. With his show, Adem managed to change my perspective on his music, and I temporarily forgot the coldness of the weather and the coldness of cynicism. I accepted that simplicity can be beautiful, even if it’s momentary. Lord knows I was right cranky the second I got back out into the cold—but I mean, isn’t music the escape we’re all looking for? Don’t we all just want to get lost in the sound sometimes. It’s nice to surprise yourself a bit. . .maybe even “find” yourself for awhile, before you’re back dealing with all the boring, real-world stuff that makes up your actual life.
Juana Molina followed with a similarly cozy vibe, and her charming presence got us all feeling special. It was like a scene out of some indie movie from the ‘90s. You know, one starring Ethan Hawke where he takes some really smart but troubled girl to a concert on a date. The band is someone you’ve never heard of, but damn is it good. And wow, does the girl dig it!
The set wasn’t as embracing as Adem’s— it seemed like a more personal experience. Molina proved herself a seriously seasoned and skilled singer, using subtle inflections as effectively as powerful wails. There’s something about seeing a woman with a true gift for singing that grants sobering perspective on what we consider “talent” to be in the aforementioned, oft-unpleasant “real world.” This singer from Argentina has a soulful voice and a unique sound that doesn’t jive with the fast-paced world we live in and the values we espouse in North America. As on her 2006 album Son, the live performance of her music says “slow down” instead of “what’s next?”
There are kinds of music that aren’t for everyone, but every once in a while, the old cliché “less is more” is worth remembering. It’s also worthwhile to note that not just anyone with a guitar and a set of chords can elicit a reaction. Trust me, I’ve seen my share of open mic nights and would gladly trade them in for two hours of standing outside on an arctic glacier. It’s only occasionally that you’re lucky enough to catch something truly moving. And that’s something that both Adem and Molina create with ease.