Concert Review: Christine Fellows w/ John K. Samson (solo)

Warning: This concert review will get quite personal. But that's inevitable, as John K Samson's lyrics and songs have become an integral part of my musical heart long before I knew that I would come to Winnipeg one day. So of course when I learned that Christine Fellows would present her new record "Roses on the Vine" in Winnipeg while I'm also in town, my wife and me immediately got our tickets! I had seen John and Christine in May 2017 in a small venue in Southern Germany and there Fellows opened for Samson - this time it was the other way around. And what a wonderful night it was! 

John K Samson took to the stage at the Good Will Social Club and it was so good to hear him play solo and The Weakerthans songs. Starting off with the "Postdoc Blues" (from his 2011 solo record "Provincial," he immersed in Weakerthans classics with "Reconstruction Site." It's always funny how the guitar lick (in the original song at 1:22) is being mimicked by the audience when there is no electric guitar to play it - and that was also the case in Winnipeg.

John K Samson playing solo at The Good
Will Social Club. Foto: Tinnitus Attacks
The Winnipeg born and based poet and singer opened up about mental health issues: "Thanks to two reasonably priced antidepressants I can stand here and play for you today," John K Samson said before he played "Alpha Adept" from his current solo record "Winter Wheat" (my record of the year 2016). In this moment, I think the audience shared the thought that we all just want John to be okay. Later in his set he also played the song "17th Street Treatment Centre" which is about recovery and getting better. It was heartwrenching for me. And somehow hearing "Plea From A Cat Named Virtute," "Virtute The Cat Explains Her Departure" and "Virtute At Rest" played in a row struck me really heavy. As we have a cat now, maybe I can get grasp the meaning of the lyrics somewhat better; all cat content irony aside, it's so amazing to have to take care of a small creature that basically just wants you to lie down so it can lie down on your chest, purr, and be petted. After that, the hauntingly beautiful title track of the 2016 solo record "Winter Wheat" (my record of the year then) was a very emotional conclusion of the set.

Christine Fellows and John K Samson share the stage at
The Good Will Social Club. Foto: Tinnitus Attacks
Christine Fellows amazed me once again with her music. She's more of a storyteller when you compare her lyrics with John's poetic and often imagery-invoking style of writing. Christine said that herself: "You can tell the lyrics are John's because you can put them in a different order and they still make sense." Her crystal clear voice is the focal point of her songs, and she casually strummed the guitar or played the piano to that. I'm still not that familiar with all of her work and I didn't get a setlist (if there even was one), but among the songs played that night were "Me and Carmen," a nice tale of friendship with a very funny opening line ("My best friend her name is Carmen/she likes me more than all those dirty rotten bastard kids ever did.") The title track, the very beautiful "One More For The Road," the upbeat "Unleashed" (with John clearly enjoying a little distortion on the electric guitar) and the experimental "Sunrise" also resonate with me the day after the concert. The duet "Taps Reversed" with John was also very impressive - and Christine Fellows' humorous announcement only added to the enjoyment. She also got quite a few laughs when she commented on the Portage and Maine referendum. John seemed to be happy with playing bass (as he did back in the days as a member of Propagandhi) and not being in the spotlight all the time. He also played a new song called "Saturday Night At Utopia Parkway" which was released on a split seven inch with Kevin Devine - I just don't remember in which section of the evening. Jason Tait, who played Drums in The Weakerthans, was playing them on this evening and Alex McMaster played cello (and had come all the way from Toronto to do that, nice!). So if you haven't done it yet, you can get "Roses on the Vine" via Bandcamp. You can pay as much as you want - or you could even pay nothing, but it's music, so come on!

When we walked home, I felt at peace. It's just the effect the music by both Christine and John has on me. And I love them for that.

See more photos of the show on my Flickr page

P.S.: When I was in Winnipeg two years ago, I met John K Samson for an interview about "Winter Wheat", cold Winnipeg winters and the effects of social media. You can read it here on my blog