Last night at Hugh's Room in Toronto, the semi-legendary JD Souther appeared. He looks older, still ruggedly handsome, the beginnings of a beard on his chin. His voice still rings out high and clear on songs like "Faithless Love", "The Best of My Love", "Silver Blue", "White Rhythm and Blues" and a selection of new tunes form his just released album If the World Was You. He carries three guitars, all Gibsons (L-1s?), two sunburst and one blonde. The blonde is in G-tuning and is used for only the couple of songs. The middle guitar, is standard tuning, used for virtually everything else. There seems to be a problem with the installed pickup and it gives off this buzz, that drives JD crazy. I couldn't really identify any electronic buzz, because the buzzes from JD's rather clumsy fingering was much more noticeable. Of course, he did make a comment about "someone of [his] skill level" so I guess he's well aware of his limitations. It just came as a bit of a surprise to me. But then, if you've always had the best musicians in LA playing on your records...so what!
It's his songs and his voice we came to hear anyway, not his prowess on the six-string. The songs are still classic and the voice is still clear and high, a beautiful thing really.
He's not a big man, but he takes the stage with confidence and personality. He was more personable than I'd expected him to be. Funny, charming, a bit sarcastic, but I agreed with him, "Why sit so close to the stage if you're going to talk?" he inquired of a couple. (Our table was next to the stage too, so I worked very hard not making comments.)
He played through his whole archive. Songs made famous by Linda Ronstadt, or the Eagles, were done JD style. Sloppy guitar intro, then fingerpicked or strummed accompaniment to his Orbisonesque tenor. The guitars sounded dandy loud and clean. Oh, the 3rd one? It was used for one song only late in the show.
The new songs blended seemlessly with the classics, so I went back to the merch table to pick up a copy of If the World Was You and they were all gone. Sold Out! Even the vinyl, which JD said would make vinyl lovers "go ape-@#$%". He had to borrow someone's copy of the 2 disc vinyl in the middle of the show, so he could read the words to one of the new songs. He could only remember the third verse! He laid the lyric sheet on top of the piano, pulled his readers from the inside pocket of his jacket, and proceeded to play the tune. Relaxed and fun. Who would have thought JD Souther would be fun? Check him out at JD Souther.net.
Oh, a young New Jersey girl opened the show. April Smith, who had plenty of merch, played a Taylor guitar that was bigger than she was...she has a powerful voice and writes intelligent and witty songs, but she doesn't make full use of the tone contained within that big musical box! Listen to a song here