Published Jul 15, 2016Nearly every time Basia Bulat has made her way to the East Coast over the years, it's been as a solo performer. No harm there: she's the sort of artist who can command a stage with simply her autoharp and her incredible voice. But it was a welcome sight to see her walk out on the Halifax Jazz Fest waterfront main stage Thursday night (July 14) with her full three-piece accompaniment in tow.
The players added heft and texture to the material from Bulat's latest album Good Advice, which earlier in the day was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. Given its quality — stacked with infectious, full-bodied songs like "Fool" and "Infamous," both highlights of the show — Bulat could easily have gotten away with playing more of the record. But, perhaps in appreciation of the novelty of having her band with her in Halifax, the all-too-short nine-song opening set prior to headliners City and Colour also gave ample room to highlight Bulat's previous two records.
Heart of My Own's title track and "Gold Rush" were the only two performances to feature Bulat's autoharp, once the staple of her sound. And the set closed with a spirited, intense take on Tall Tall Shadow's title track and an energetic "Wires," with Bulat manipulating her voice through a distorted microphone for effect.
Bulat's non-distorted voice didn't sound at its peak; you could hear a rasp when she spoke between songs, and at times it felt as if she wasn't rushing towards each note with full strength, holding back on some of the more intense tones. But there was still a crackling spark to her timbre though, an electricity that jolted joy into her sad, wonderful little songs time and time again.