There are certain performers who shine with a particular and natural beauty when they sing. They don’t adopt an intense persona, but the music seems to radiate directly from their souls with seemingly effortless prowess. One such performer is Amanda LeBlanc, an actor/singer/songwriter originally from Nova Scotia who is currently primarily based in Toronto. I caught an evening with Amanda LeBlanc entitled Let’s Be Foolish on Wednesday, April 1st at the Press Club where she performed with singer/songwriters Melanie Peterson and Marta. Accompanying herself on guitar, which she plays without a pick, she sang ten songs of her own composition and one cover song with some “impromptu musical splendour” from Marta’s band.
Music from the East Coast often has a particular spirit to it, one that pays homage to our Celtic forefathers and seems saturated with salty sea breezes and a yearning for home. Amanda LeBlanc’s music is no exception. Her song “Highway Drivin’” captures perfectly a journey so many of us can relate to, with “bare feet up on the dash,” as we drive toward the place where “the water kisses stone.” Her upbeat rock-out song “Take Me Down” is a perfect toe-tappin,’ jaunty pub song with similarly wistful lyrics that reflect the magnetic pull of the ocean on the soul. “Movin’ On” reminds me of Melanie Doane’s song “Salt Water,” as it follows in the tradition of tunes written to reconcile the choice so many East Coasters make to leave the ocean behind and to follow our dreams and our hearts to a much larger labyrinth of “grey on grey” concrete.
LeBlanc’s signature song is the winsome and utterly endearing “Man in the Moon,” which is a light and poetic tune that freely emphasizes the lovely upper register of her voice. She also sings a “classic breakup song” entitled “Cover to Cover” and the very poignant “Letter” which begins “Dear Sir” and expresses the hope one clings to for salvaging the lost friendship after a romantic relationship has ended. Her voice soars with particular resonance in the chorus of this song. Her haunting song “Change,” is inspired by her reactions to Edmonton’s conspicuous problem with homelessness while she was living in the city performing at the Citadel Theatre. It is considerably darker than her other songs, but very evocative. The song that her voice suits with absolute perfection is called “Little Walls;” the refrain seems as polished as one would expect from a song on the radio and LeBlanc’s belt flies with finesse and breezy ease.
One of the most striking moments of the show is LeBlanc’s rendition of her one cover song, “Tennessee Waltz,” which she sings with utter gorgeousness in a performance that surpasses that of every single one of the long line of artists who have made this classic so beloved and renowned. She belts certain phrases, filling each syllable with emotion, and the effect is absolute, utter perfection. I am so thankful that there is a demo recording of her rendition on her MySpace because all the others pale so dramatically in her shadow. Let’s Be Foolish ended with LeBlanc’s jaunty song “Drip,” which boasts of the catchiest tune and shows off LeBlanc’s brilliant scatting talents, and on this evening in particular the audience was treated to a rousing kazoo solo by the inspired Meredith Zwicker.
“Drip” is the song that you will go home humming at the end of the evening, but with all her wistful tunes and her contagious and utterly endearing spirit and charm, Amanda LeBlanc always insures an evening that will leave you feeling warm and cozy in your heart, although perhaps also pining slightly for the sea.
Amanda LeBlanc can next be seen at the Free Times Café (320 College Street) on April 15th, 2010 at 9:00pm singing her own songs, and then at the Bathurst Street Theatre (736 Bathurst Street) on April 26th, 2010 at 8pm as part of The Man in the Mirror, Acting Up Stage Theatre’s annual evening of Toronto’s finest musical theatre stars paying homage to rock n’ roll, with a night dedicated to the music of Michael Jackson.