Islington Assembly Hall, London N1
Early on is his set, Ron Sexsmith commented that he wasn’t sure that anyone was going to turn up.
Coming the night after the atrocity of the murders at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester I can see how he felt that way, although he had also a few minutes earlier said, to much applause, something along the lines that we have to stand up to the terrorists by showing we aren’t cowed by them and carry on with out lives. That’s very much how we felt.
Security was understandably far tighter than normal with thorough searches of bags, not just a quick glance inside. Though how this helps when the killer turns up with the intention of blowing people up as they leave the venue isn’t clear.
But if it were political and sociological comment that you wanted, you wouldn’t be here, but elsewhere seeking more perspicacious insight than mine. So how was Ron’s performance, you ask.
Well he was on really good form. Better than I’ve seen him for some time. When the tour was announced some months back I asked my wife if she wanted to go. Much as we like Ron’s music, the last couple of London shows we’d seen at The Barbican and Royal Festival Hall had been somewhat lacklustre. We decided to go, pretty much for old time’s sake.
The stage set up is decidedly low-tech. Three slide projectors and screens towards the rear of the stage with pictures changing for each song. We frequently see the word RON projected, cropped from the much larger TORONTO city sign. It’s endearing in it’s simplicity. Pink Floyd it most certainly is not.
Ron now has an extensive catalogue (he pointed out it’s the 20th anniversary of the release of Other Songs), so there is a vast amount of material for him to pick his show from, though inevitably the set is weighted to new album The Last Rider; he opens with It Won’t Last For Long but to my immense pleasure second song is Late Bloomer. The Bob Rock produced Long Player, Late Bloomer album had been disowned by Ron, although I believe it remains one of his very best. It seems he’s become reconciled to it and towards the end he plays Get In Line.
The band are his regulars, Davey Matthews on keyboard, Kevin LaCroix on guitar and the rhythm section of bassist Jason Mercer and drummer Don Kerr (who Ron revealed has been with him for 30 years). I’m not sure if it is just something I’ve never noticed before, but Ron did appear to be playing solos and generally embellishing his guitar strumming. In his between songs asides, he did seem to be extremely relaxed and at ease with being the front man.
The inevitable Secret Heart, played fairly early on, is dedicated to a recent married couple in the audience. From Other Songs Ron played his beautiful songs Strawberry Blonde and Thinking Out Loud, while the only song form Whereabouts is Idiot Boy (the fabulous Seem To Recall has been banished from his sets).
The band sets are broken by an acoustic set, including a couple on piano and a duet with support Lori Cullen.
After Monday night’s horror, albeit some 200 miles away, this was a night to celebrate the positive sides of humanity, coming together to celebrate and enjoy some excellent music. Ron Sexsmith was the right man with the right songs at the right time and I thank him for it.
Not much sign of anyone under 30. But it is pretty mixed gender wise, probably exemplified by that couple to whom Secret Heart was dedicated
It made me think..
I’m so glad we decided to go and not assume that Ron was forever locked into a cycle of low-energy performances.