John K Samson @ Biltmore -- 03/31/12

I honestly don't know why I am not a bigger fan of The Weakerthans. I do really like them -- I don't think there's a song written by John K Samson that I haven't liked -- but I've always seemed to be a bit more of a "passive fan" to the band. So when I heard John K Samson was coming through town for his solo tour, I knew I both shouldn't and couldn't miss it.

Opening the show was Shotgun Jimmie, who was a veritable one man band. It was just him and his guitar on stage, and not only was he using a suitcase as a kickdrum, but had a second kick drum going as well. At one point he was effectively playing two drums, the guitar and a shaker all simultaneously.
Admittedly I haven't heard too much of Jimmie's music, but I was definitely won over within only a couple songs. With a sound that reminded me of a cross between Joel Plaskett and Chad VanGaalen, and an effortless stage presence, he charmed his way through a collection of songs old and new; my favourite being one I didn't catch the name of that he introduced as about love and outer space.
After a solid set, he brought out a couple guests, including John K Samson, joking that their band was named "Welcome Wireless Internet Restaurant" and ending the set with a high energy, rocking song.

It wasn't long after that John K Samson hit the stage; at first coming out alone and leading the sold out crowd in sing along to "One Great City", before being joined by The Provincial Band, which included Shotgun Jimmie on guitar. The set consisted of not only his own solo material from his recent album Provincial, but a fair amount of Weakerthans songs, too. Ranging from the soft and beautiful "The Last And", to the more upbeat and rocking "When I Write My Master's Thesis", Samson had the crowd in the palm of his hand from the moment he hit the stage. With many sing alongs, and people shouting out random Manitoban references, John did a great job of engaging the crowd, even down to little things like leading a salute during the spoken word "Elegy for Gump Worsley" and asked people to support the petition his get Reggie Leach into the Hockey Hall of Fame, with a song whose title is also a link to the petition, "". Other highlights of the set included older favourites "Pamphleteer" and "Tournament of Hearts" and his own "Longitudinal Centre" and "Cruise Night".
After "ending" the set with "Left and Leaving", he was back out for the encore with "Plea From A Cat Named Virtute", strapped on the bass for a Propagandhi song, "Gifts", and ended the night with yet another sing along, this time to "Virtute The Cat Explains Her Departure" and John completely unplugged and standing at the very edge of the stage, guitar and voice unamplified.

And not only was Samson a great performer, but he was also looking out for his fans; during "Tournament of Hearts", he paused in the middle of the song when he noticed a girl had passed out, and made sure people gave her room, that she was okay, and even offered her some of his water and a spot to sit.

It was pretty fantastic set from one of Canada's finest songwriters and I am already looking forward to whatever is next from Samson and/or The Weakerthans.

One Great City, Heart of the Continent, Cruise Night, When I Write My Master's Thesis, Letter In Icelandic From The Ninette San, Tournament of Hearts, Night Windows, Elegy for Gump Worsley, Pamphleteer,, Longitudinal Centre, The Boat Dreams From The Hill [Jawbreaker cover], The Last And, Highway 1 West, Left & Leaving.
(encore) Plea From A Cat Named Virtute, Gifts [Propagandhi cover], Reconstruction Site, Virtute The Cat Explains Her Departure.