Electrifying performance by Julian Taylor wins ovations

Performer Julian Taylor played the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage last weekend. Journalist Wendy Gibb has this review. (Supplied photo)

MORRISBURG – By the end of roots musician Julian Taylor’s St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage concert on Saturday, April 13, absolutely no one in the Playhouse was still sitting. People were all on their feet, cheering and clapping and singing along with this riveting performer.

Alone on the stage with just his guitar, or backed by extraordinary musicians Steve, David and Jeremy, Taylor’s powerful, versatile vocals took the crowd from rhythm and blues to rock n’ roll to touching folk songs. He is an artist whose music is intensely personal and real: everyone travelled with him on a unique musical journey.

The mood for a terrific evening of music had already been set for the crowd by the wondrous musical stylings of the opening performer on Saturday evening. Mia Kelly, a rising young artist, winner of numerous awards, had already thrilled listeners with her songs and her stage presence.

Mia stood alone on the stage, accompanying herself on the guitar. Slight, young, she gave no hint of the power and resonance of her voice until she began to sing. Her range is extraordinary. She holds nothing back when she performs. The emotions in her songs are always there on the surface.

Mia said in an earlier Leader interview, that she loves to tell stories through her music, and, when she sings, “the emotions are overflowing.”

She often talked to the audience, sharing the sources of her inspiration. One memorable song was based on a “grumpy old British man” she once lived near for a time in Nicaragua. Long ago the old man had been a sailor in the navy, and as she listened to his stories, the music came: she sang, to honour him, of a time “when ships were made of wood and men were made of steel.”

Another song reflected the story of people’s struggles with mental health in “The Sixth Floor.” Her musical imagery in this piece was powerful: “an ordinary man/in a dead man’s skin.” Later she performed a beautiful song, a “true love song,” as she put it, written to the Ottawa River, a place where she river surfs, and finds incredible joy, a feeling she reflects in her song.

It was clear that Mia Kelly loves to perform, loves to make a powerful connection with her audience.

Blessed with an exceptional voice and a winning stage presence, she ended her set by inviting the audience to join her in her upbeat and delightful, “Where you runnin’, where you runnin’ to, Vagabond?”

When Julian Taylor came on stage for his first song, ‘The Human Race,’ from his award-winning album, The Ridge, he was alone, and accompanied himself on the guitar. Immediately, the audience understood that his music would share many emotions, reflected through his stories. With a voice that ranges effortlessly from bass to tenor, he sang “It’s a steep hill to mind/ Lots of stairs to climb/…I can’t imagine all the things you’ve been through/ And it hasn’t always been strangers who hurt you…” His feelings were communicated to every listener.

“I love performing. Thank you for supporting live music. It’s all about the experience of being here together,” he told the crowd. Throughout the concert, the delight Julian Taylor took in sharing his music with the audience was clear. Whether it was the warmth of a ballad written about his grandfather, who lived to be 102, or numbers that had a decided rock n’ roll beat, or the feel of rhythm and blues, Taylor invited everyone to enjoy the world and its people with him.

In the song ‘Seeds,’ he celebrated his Mohawk heritage and the strength and resiliency of the human spirit. “They knocked you down, erased your name/ You stood and wouldn’t change/ They tried to bury us/ But they didn’t know we were seeds…Everyone eventually dreams..” There were travelling songs, songs about memories and family, songs about standing up for what you believe in.

Julian filled the theatre with his voice: the crowd loved it.

And it wasn’t long before Taylor had his audience singing right along with him and the band during the bouncy and delightful ‘Bobbi Champagne.” But even this hardly prepared them for the last number of the evening, the utterly exuberant, almost reggae style, ‘Just a Little Bit.’ Before he finished this number, everyone was on their feet singing, swaying and loving it. Julian stepped off the stage and actually danced up and down the aisles, sharing that energy and excitement during this piece. It came as no surprise that the crowd wouldn’t let Julian Taylor and his fellow musicians leave the stage without returning for an encore.

Saturday, April 13, the SLAS concert with performers Julian Taylor and Mia Kelly, simply left everyone wanting more and more and more.

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