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Ottawa Bluesfest Days 8-9 feat. Feat. Cat Power, Tagaq, The Steve Miller Band, and Xavier Rudd

Christopher Cwynar
Cat Power

As we hit mid-week and the middle of the festival itself, it was inevitable that fatigue would begin to set in. Weariness? Exhaustion? Time to call in Cat Power!

Ottawa Bluesfest Days 8-9

Ottawa Bluesfest Days 8-9 feat. Feat. Cat Power, Tagaq, The Steve Miller Band, and Xavier Rudd

City: Ottawa, ON
Venue: LeBreton Flats
Date: 2007-07

11 July 2007 As we hit mid-week and the middle of the festival itself, it was inevitable that fatigue would begin to set in. Stuck with the formidable task of entertaining an exhausted crowd in search of a second wind, Cat Power (the artistic alter-ego of indie singer/songwriter Chan Marshall) was first up on the Rogers Stage on Wednesday. Marshall was backed by a bluesy four-piece band featuring keyboards, bass, drums, and guitar. Suffering from a cold, the singer’s usually smoky voice took on an extra layer of husk. Though famous for bouts of stage fright and onstage tantrums, the Marshall we encountered appeared a consummate professional. The singer seemed to draw strength from her band, as she ran through an excellent set of originals and covers which included the Stones’ "Satisfaction", Gram Parsons' "Dark End of the Street", and a keyboard-heavy take on "New York, New York". Marshall tends to wear her influences on her sleeve, and her inspiration has never been more evident than in her covers of songs by Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin. The song to the Queen of Soul was particularly poignant, as Franklin is a critical influence on Marshall -- in terms of both music and ethos. Although it might have been a bit over the top in any other context, Marshall's tribute offered a fitting climax to the performance, capping her inspired indie-soul set with a feminist edge.

Steve Miller

After Cat Power, we were confronted with a difficult choice. At the Black Sheep Stage, Inuit artist Tagaq was about to deliver a mesmerizing fusion of traditional throat-singing and electronic beats. At the MBNA, though, the Steve Miller Band was taking the stage ahead of schedule to ensure there’d be time for all the hits. Like many, I decided to hop between the scenes, and, after much thought, chose to start with Miller. Dressed in pressed jeans and white dress shirt, the avuncular Wisconsin native looked like an escapee from the V.I.P. section of some snooty soirée. That said, he appeared well-rested and rejuvenated -- a good thing since recent neck surgery had thrown his performance career into question. Miller opened the show with a fifteen-minute version of "Fly Like an Eagle" before going straight into "Abracadabra”. The surprisingly large crowd swung with every chord; it seemed as though even those in the long lines at the beer tents were feeling Miller's vintage California rock.

Tagaq

On the other side of the War Museum, Tagaq kneeled at the foot of the stage, the diminutive native of Canada's northernmost territory delivering a progressive performance rooted in old-world aesthetics. The crowd stood transfixed as Tagaq used arm gestures and unusual electronics to augment tradition-tinged throat singing. This vocal performance featured no words and few conventional sounds, yet it had the crowd in a sort of collective trance -- by the end we were following Tagaq's every movement and utterance. I returned to the MBNA Stage just in time to see Miller push the crowd into collective ecstasy with a tight "Rock'n Me". From there, she finished the evening with a string of greatest hits, including "The Joker", "Swingtown", and "Jet Airliner" -- which served as an ideal show closer. When the first notes of the final song hit the field, the crowd let out a huge cheer -- acting as though they hadn't seen the FM-radio staple coming -- before proceeding to dance up a storm in his honor.


12 July 2007

Xavier Rudd

Thursday featured performances by two festival favorites, Australian roots rocker Xavier Rudd and Canada's own Blue Rodeo. Rudd took the Bluesfest by storm in 2004; his initial set on the Black Sheep Stage was such a success that he was invited to play a couple of main-stage sets that same year. This time around, he returned to play the River Stage in front of a packed house that grooved along to every drumbeat and didgeridoo. As always, Rudd used his set as a forum to address topics such as ecological issues and the rights of aboriginal peoples. Many of Rudd's songs sounded similar, but then, the crowd wasn’t complaining. On the MBNA Stage, Blue Rodeo played their annual headlining set. Vocalists Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor took turns at the mic, delivering satisfying versions of old favorites like "Diamond Mine", "Head Over Heels", and "Lost Together". The show was comfortable and familiar, like an old flannel shirt -- one that offers security and the same great fit, time after time and season after season. Check back tomorrow as PopMatters’ Christopher Cwynar concludes his Bluesfest coverage with reviews of Kanye West, Stephen Fearing, Jim Bryson, and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.

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