Melanie Doane Rocks Out in Canwest Cabaret

melanie doane

Melanie Doane may be a self-described “practical Nova Scotian girl” but, make no mistake; she is also a rock star. I was extremely excited to see Doane perform with musicians Mike Borkosky and Creighton Doane in the Canwest Cabaret Festival at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts and while I knew that I was in for a treat on this, the day after Halloween, this cabaret even managed to exceed my already high expectations.
She began with one of my favourite of her songs, “Goliath,” which I evoke frequently to fill me with a sense of empowerment as I seek to conquer the giants in my own life. With all the technology available in the music industry, sometimes songs that have been recorded tend to lose a bit of their intensity and luster when they are performed live; however, Melanie Doane packed double the amount of punch and power into “Goliath” on Sunday afternoon so that it sounded (if possible) even better than the recording on her album Adam’s Rib. Kapow. She then launched into her beautiful “Waiting for the Tide,” which she sings with incredible emotional passion. This song in particular shows off Doane’s beautiful voice and how seamlessly she can switch from her powerful belt to the lovely upper registers of her voice, which soar out with clarity and vibrancy.
Melanie Doane is sensationally multitalented. I spent most of the concert utterly engaged, yet strikingly bewildered by her gorgeous voice and the continual switching of instruments from guitars to fiddles to the piano, all of which she played with zeal, precision and gusto. She is also an incredible songwriter. Her songs are all accessible and memorable with music that has the ability to sweep an audience away and lyrics that are continually poetic and insightful. There is a line in “Still Desire You” where she says, “you don’t know lingerie from laundry, you don’t know things that turn me on, you don’t know Pepsi ads from poetry, you don’t sing me any love songs” which I think nicely sums up her creative way with words that speak with such humanity and are easy to connect to. I also urge you all to listen to her song “I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” (co-written with Kevin Fox from Halifax) and to really listen to the lyrics because this song is very cleverly crafted to conceal its intended meaning. She even tricked the producers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Cunning!
Her newest album A Thousand Nights (2008) was conceived after the birth of her two young children, as an album that parents could put on to soothe and lull their children to sleep that would be enjoyable and appropriate for both the children and their parents. It is an incredible album with some stunningly gorgeous renditions of popular songs like Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Songbird” and “Song of Bernadette” and a haunting version of Tom Waits’ “Martha”, which is sung as a duet with her husband Ted Dykstra. She wrote the song “Every Little Thing” and played it at the cabaret, accompanying herself on the piano. It is one of the most sweet, sincere and absolutely touching songs I have ever heard about motherhood and the worries and desire women have to be perfect for their children. The line, “maybe keep your raincoat on” conjures such vivid images of childhood for me and the subtle hint of doubt in her use of the word “maybe” has such gentleness in her desire to protect her little one from the rain.
Then, of course, there is the fiddle. Melanie Doane plays this instrument with such vigor and power, it is truly incredible and utterly joyful to behold. “Mel’s Rock Pile” is one of the most fascinating things to watch. I swear it made my heart leap from my chest and fly about the room. It’s not enough to just hear this on her album; it has got to be seen to be truly appreciated in all its glory. It will leave your mouth agape in wonder.
I’m not sure if this is an experience unique to growing up in Nova Scotia, but I remember vividly sitting in the car on the way to Junior High rocking out to “Adam’s Rib” as it played on the radio. It is rare for a song that so stimulates one to start dancing to also have lyrics that are equally as compelling. Yet, that is the signature genius of Melanie Doane. Her encore, an older song called “Salt Water” brought tears to my eyes as I found myself longing too for Nova Scotia the sea-bound coast. We have such incredibly talented singer/songwriter/rock stars in this country, and Juno Award winner Melanie Doane is certainly a prime example. I felt proud and fortunate to sit in the Michael Young Theatre on Sunday afternoon and to experience her music live for the first time. It is an experience I look forward to duplicating in the very near future.
If you have not already purchased Doane’s albums, of which there are several, but particularly Adam’s Rib (1998), You Are What You Love (2003) and A Thousand Nights (2008), I would strongly urge you to download them all right now from iTunes, or to visit this website for more information on how to buy the CD in a non-digital format. I guarantee, this is the sort of music that one listens to for a lifetime and then passes on to her children.

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