Sitting in the Broadway Theatre, waiting for the show to start, Deserée got a text from Nicholas asking if I was excited for the show. Considering that I've never met Nicholas, I appreciated his concern.
And I was excited, or excited enough, anyway. I checked and this was my fourteenth time seeing Hawksley Workman. I didn't read all my old reviews in detail, but at least as far back as the fifth show, I was saying that I'd felt like I'd seen everything before. And while I always enjoy Hawksley's shows, it does sometimes feel like he only ever plays the same small selection of his many songs.
I told Deserée to tell Nicholas that I was excited for the show, but probably not as excited as she was. This is an understatement. For many years, she's been using the social media of the day to try and convince Hawksley that he needed to play the song Baby This Night in concert. So far, no luck. But about a week before the show, Hawksley tweeted that he was rehearsing for the tour. She asked if he was rehearsing Baby This Night for Saskatoon, and he said "yes!" and she said OMGOMGOMGAgdfsnhoaiigsndrvsldknhfslvnh, or words to that effect.
She bought tickets long before the show but never picked them up, so we were relying on the Broadway Theatre website to find out when the show was to start. It said doors at 6:30, show at 7:30, so we agreed to split the difference and meet at 7:00. I took the afternoon off work so I made it to Saskatoon in plenty of time. After a quick sub with Dave, I made it to the theatre at about 7:05, or five minutes after the doors actually opened. I'm never sure why tickets, printed over a month in advance, can be right, but websites are almost always wrong.
Since this has mostly been Deserée's story so far, and I'm feeling a bit reviewed out at this point, I'll just liberally steal from her post on Facebook:
-- I arrived around 6:40 to pick up tickets at will-call, only to discover I was the first one there. There was a sign saying that doors opened at 7 and the show started at 8. So instead of standing around being cold, I decided to grab a coffee at Starbucks. It's a few doors down from the theatre. While I was waiting for my drink, who should walk in but Hawksley Workman himself?! Did I play it cool and say hello? Did I casually introduce myself as the person who has been harassing him for 10 years to play my favourite song in concert? No. I texted my friend that he was there, and then walked out of Starbucks with my heart in my mouth.
Went back to the theatre, where I was still the first one there. I was joined shortly after by a guy and his girlfriend. He was a big HW fan, and it was her first show. We chatted about the olden days, shows gone by, other acts we had seen at Louis', back when it was The Dank, and not all Star Trekky and over-priced. As we were chatting, Hawksley walked up to the door. He asked why it was still locked and knocked on it a few times. We asked him if he didn't have some pull to get us inside. He said "man, you'd think I would, but I'm telling you, I have no pull at all. I mean, I'm the performer, but I have to stand out here just like you". We all laughed, and he asked our names. I told him my first name, and then my last name, and he said "Oh yes, I know who you are!" I said "are you really playing my song tonight?" and he said "Yes, I am!" --
I got there too late to see any of this.
We found our way to our seats and promptly doubled back to check out the stuff table. Apart from the shirts, most of which were for ladies, I had every single thing. Back to the seats, where Deserée showed me how to work her little video camera for when (if?) they'd play her song.
Before the show, a representative from the theatre came out to thank sponsors and whatnot. He mentioned that someone was studying to be a sommelier (and not, as Deserée thought a "Somalian") and had paired wines (one red, one white) specifically to Hawksley's music. The Broadway mostly shows movies, so you could buy hot buttered popcorn with your wine. Popcorn feels weird at a concert. Wine feels weird at a movie theatre (not that I usually drink wine anyway).
There was no opening act. Hawksley and Mr. Lonely took the stage, and I'll turn it over to Deserée again:
-- The only part of the night that was more exciting was when Hawksley and Lonely STARTED the show with "Baby, This Night". That's why the first line is chopped off of this video. And it starts a little wobbly because James had to record and get set at the same time. But I'm quite delighted with it and hope you will also enjoy The crowd seemed mostly confused by it, and I chalk that up to a lot of HW fans being the ones that came on with "Striptease", so they don't know the earlier stuff as well. It was well-received though, even if people did think it was a new track --
So yes. After years of hoping and begging and "it was a great show, but..." he opened the show with the song she'd waited forever for, and now she even has it (well, 99% of it) on video. I'm not sure we've ever seen him play it before - if we have, it was one of those very first shows back in 2000. I think it's fair to say that as much as she built the song up, Hawksley and Lonely lived up to expectations. I don't know if he's playing it at every show on this tour or if it really was special for Saskatoon because she asked, but whatever the case may be, she said it was her all-time favourite concert-going moment.
Right now, the video is only posted on Facebook, but if she posts it to YouTube, I'll link to it. And yes, the video WAS a little wobbly. In my defense, I had to shoot around an old man's massive head while simultaneously covering up the viewfinder so as not to blind anyone sitting behind us.
So what could follow that? We actually got one of the better setlists in recent memory, but I might be biased since he played Claire Fontaine, which is one of my all-time favourites, and I'm reasonably certain it was the first time I've ever heard him sing the whole thing. (I'm still a bit bitter about the time many years ago he sang a few lines and then moved onto another song.)
The whole show was a nice mix of my personal favourites, old and new, from Bullets and Safe & Sound from his first album, through We Will Still Need A Song, and more recent songs like Piano Blink, We'll Make Time, and Warhol's Portrait of Gretzky. We also got some of the songs that always seem to show up - it's pretty rare that you see Hawksley and he doesn't play Autumn's Here or Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off (this time, it segued in and out of the theme from The Greatest American Hero; in a related note, Deserée's TV show theme-identifying abilities are top-notch). He also played Smoke Baby, but a version unique to Saskatoon, as he was joined by local guitarist Megan Lane.
I like Hawksley enough (you: "we know") and have seen him often enough (you: "again, we know") that I'd rather have a whole show of new material than the greatest hits (does he have hits? I guess Striptease, kinda, but he didn't play that), so I was delighted to get a song I'd never heard before. Hawksley's written a musical called The God That Comes, about Bacchus, the god of wine. It's still talked about on his website as a work in progress, though I know it's been performed in Victoria and Toronto (more trial runs than anything) and it will be performed in Calgary at some point next year. I really enjoyed the new song and if I'm going to be visiting my grandparents in Calgary at some point anyway...
He also played "something weird" that the CBC asked him to make, which was the song Where They Left It Wild from the CBC Radio 2 Great Canadian Song Quest. I really never expected to hear this one in concert but it was pretty great and would be a welcome addition to the regular rotation.
Somewhere in here was an intermission, which Hawksley repeatedly stated was not a sign of weakness on his part; rather, an opportunity to sneak backstage and lift some weights. I tried to take the opportunity to buy some popcorn and special Hawksley wine (so while Hawksley was pretending to work out, I was looking to inflate myself with trans fats and alcohol), but the lobby had about seven intermission's worth of people in something that was almost (but not entirely) completely unlike a line. Oh well, I didn't need that popcorn anyway. I bet it was sour.
Hawksley also likes to chat between songs (and sometimes during songs). I don't generally go into too much detail here, since I'd hate to spoil anything for future concertgoers. I know he recycles bits; I'm pretty sure I've heard the story about his dad and the kayak at the past four straight shows. Same with the one about him and his brother visiting their grandmother. They're enjoyable stories every time, but it's always more fun to hear new stuff. Accordingly, I left the show tempted to register twitterwhichisbullshit.com just so he could access Twitter by a more fitting URL and post tales of the bygone days of Sears.
Driving to Saskatoon and back in a day isn't quite as challenging as Minneapolis and back in three days, but I could still do without it. You can't see anything at night, there's nothing to see during the day, and if there was anything there, I'd have seen it all during the hundreds of times I've made that trek. But if I can keep being happily surprised 14 shows in, I'll keep going.
That is depressing, because while I don't know Gary Allen, I love Best I've Ever Had by VH. It is one of the best songs on that album. Even with your hatred of it, I might have to do something I'd never normally do and turn on Country Music Television.