By Kyle Poluyko, Photo by Bill Gross
Jann Arden made her Thunder Bay debut in early 1994 as the supporting act for the satirical pop-folk band Moxy Früvous. The satire could very well have been in that billing as, with Arden’s haunting first single, “I Would Die For You,” from her critically acclaimed debut Time For Mercy, she redefined that evening in a passionate, intimate, and all-too-short acoustic performance. Arden returned to the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium Monday night on her Everything Almost tour with a performance as enchanting and exhilarating as that night 20 years earlier.
Opening the evening, and making their Canadian debut as a duo, were the sensational Jill and Kate. With effortless grace and charm, combined with righteously stunning vocal harmonies, they immediately captivated the audience with their first number from their album of the same title, “Heart of Stone,” and earned generous audience applause by first chorus’ end. In a delicate and mesmeric acoustic rendition, Jill and Kate covered Katy Perry’s “Roar” and enamoured the audience into a gentle sing-a-long. With energy honed on the road during several years as background singers for Kelly Clarkson and with remarkable talent as singer/songwriters, Jill and Kate are poised to re-establish the female duo.
When Jann Arden emerged in silhouette after an indelible first verse of “Counting Mercies” in darkness, she was met with thunderous applause. A true entertainer with a singular gift for comedy, Arden heartily greeted the Thunder Bay audience by promising to musically “weave through my pathetic personal life and make you feel better about yours.” And weave her way stunningly through her outstanding catalogue she did, with selections from each of her albums, particularly a notable nod to the 20th anniversary of her internationally lauded Living Under June, which Arden said she would have loved to perform in its entirety but “We do want to do this AC/DC thing because a lot of men were dragged here tonight.” Magnificent renditions of her “greatest hurts” including “Wishing That,” “Could I Be Your Girl?” “Insensitive,” “Time For Mercy,” and “Will You Remember Me” cascaded over and bathed the audience in melodic euphony.
Supporting Arden on stage was impeccable talent, including remarkable female collaborators such as masterful musician and singer/songwriter Allison Cornell, and singular vocalist Kristyn Osborn of the Grammy-nominated country group SHeDAISY. Arden’s latest tracks from Everything Almost including “You Forgot You Loved Me,” “Hard To Be Alive,” “You Loved Me Back” and “Karolina” are new, exciting standouts in her established canon. A rocking cover of “You’re So Vain” and a surprising, Johnny Cash-esque delivery of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” thrilled and roused the audience.
Lavishing praise on Thunder Bay as place that once, on a past visit, restored her faith in humanity, it was clear that this city is a special place for Jann Arden. Closing the evening with the beautiful “You Were Never Broken,” a song about humanity and survival, Arden left the audience with the gift of her graciousness and unparalleled talent.