Tenille Townes live in Glasgow review: October 17, 2022 – Òran Mór
“I do not want this night to end!” – Tenille Townes
Tenille Townes is no stranger to success; she was nominated for a Canadian Country Music Award at just 17. Yet, 11 years later she was stunned and humbled by the reaction she received nearly 4000 miles from home. The sold-out Glasgow crowd welcomed her with the kind of warmth, familiarity and volume that would usually be reserved for a hometown show.
Townes rewarded them with a high-energy performance expertly blending country, rock, blues, and dramatic flair.
The first three songs, from Tenille Townes’ 2020 album Lemonade Stand, went by in a blur of guitar licks and swirling hair. Lyrically, they set the tone for the show. Where You Are and White Horse asserted the importance of love. Then Come As You Are (not the Nirvana classic, although Townes could certainly do that justice) was a Breakfast Club-style plea for self-acceptance.
Just four songs in, we were already on to the third single of the night, and this was one of the big ones. The story is surely familiar to the fans who were hanging on Townes’ every word, yet it bore repeating. Jersey On The Wall (I’m Just Asking) was written to commemorate Danielle Park who had died in a car accident soon after graduating as her high school’s valedictorian (the highest-performing student). Townes met the young survivors and then returned to their graduation ceremony where Park’s best friend was given her university scholarship with Park’s basketball jersey hanging on the wall.
Touched by the impact of this tragedy on a close-knit community, plus the loss of a friend’s younger brother, Townes worked with Tina Parol and Gordie Sampson (who co-write Jesus Take The Wheel) to capture a moment of existential crisis: “Why couldn’t you stop that car from crashing?/Forgive me, I’m just asking.” The song combines specificity for emotional impact with enough latitude for listeners to commemorate their own private tragedies. Perhaps this is why the end of the song was greeted with a gentle collective sigh.
Townes deftly lifted the mood by paying tribute to “a Canadian legend, hero of mine” with a cover of Alanis Morissette’s smash-hit single Ironic. This was a clever choice, cementing Townes position as a sort of country Alanis. She’s another Canadian with a distinctive voice working relentlessly to make it “just a short 45 hour drive [away in] Nashville, Tennessee.” That singalong certainly warmed the crowd up for the Bon Jovian ‘woah oh ohs’ of Same Road Home.
Then it was time for another turn on the emotional rollercoaster. Townes had been inspired by her Aunty Sue musing that she had”made a moment of” taking her son to school for the first time, but the last time had simply passed by. Townes parsed that into the lyric: “Everyone remembers the first time
‘Cause the heart knows there’ll never be another like this/The thing about the last time is you don’t know that it’s the last time ’til it is.”
Townes continued to be blown away by the warm welcome she was receiving far from home, careening between laughter, emotion and disbelief at the packed crowd’s reaction to new songs as well as fan favourites.
“Anybody out there looking for their person?”- Tenille Townes
When’s It Gonna Happen certainly was a favourite, sounding like a bittersweet, peppy Grey’s Anatomy anthem or an alternate Dawson’s Creek theme song.
Townes next paid tribute to her grandma, who she said would have been happy at the front row of this gig “in a lawn chair with a cheap Canadian beer.” Her musical tribute was a touching acoustic song called When I Meet My Maker.
Delightfully, Townes left space in the set (and the setlist) for requests. That’s how we ended up being treated to a pristine cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Beforehand, she recounted how she’d been put on the spot to sing it during a record label audition. No pressure, eh! No need to worry, though; she was signed on the strength of that impromptu performance!
Townes is lauded as a country artist, and on record I Kept The Roses certainly is traditional country. The revelation we got live is Townes and her band’s blues rock chops. Hot damn! The energy and heat kept up for new song Back To Life, as Townes swung her hair like a weapon and threw guitar shapes standing up on the risers.
Girl Who Didn’t Care was another crowd favourite single and Townes took the opportunity to point out some long-standing fans it was dedicated to. Holding Out For The One was another anthem for the young women singing back to her, equally disenchanted with tired chat-up lines and striving for true romance. Fittingly, this was paired with a rocking cover of Melissa Etheridge’s I’m The Only One.
Much like Jersey On The Wall, Townes’ other Canadian Country number 1 is another sensitive, thought-provoking number. It’s worlds away from the banal blue jeans/cold beer/truck lyrics of so many of her male contemporaries. As the crowd sang Somebody’s Daughter home, there was universal support for Townes’ closing sentiment “I do not want this night to end”.
After a short encore, Townes returned for a natural rendition of At Last by Etta James. The audience watched in stunned silence, then the applause rang out long after the band had left in triumph.
Tenille Townes live in Glasgow: Òran Mór setlist
- Where You Are
- White Horse
- Come As You Are
- Jersey On The Wall (I’m Just Asking)
- Same Road Home
- The Last Time
- When’s It Gonna Happen
- When I Meet My Maker
- Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen cover)
- I Kept The Roses
- Back To Life
- Girl Who Didn’t Care
- Holding Out For The One
- I’m The Only One (Melissa Etheridge cover)
- Somebody’s Daughter
- At Last (Etta James cover)
“Most of you won’t know us, which is kind of freeing” – Callum Pitt
Unfortunately, support act Callum Pitt hadn’t been afforded the same quiet respect. He persevered despite intense competition from someone bellowing about bad concert experiences (oh, the irony!)
Suze Terwisscha joined Pitt on stage, elevating his tender guitar work with gentle harmonies. This kind of music deserves a quiet, listening room and the opposite reality was disappointing for Pitt’s third show back since lockdown. Nonetheless, he charmed Townes’ “lovely fans” with his tenacity and humour: “you’ll know when it starts, it’s dead high!” He was right, it really was!
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