Serena Ryder and Hairography

Well, I think it was particularly apt that I went to see Serena Ryder live in concert the same day I watched Glee’s Season 1 Episode 11: Hairography — that woman’s got a whole lot of hair, and she loves to swing it; the catch, of course, is that she’s also got talent.

This wasn’t the first time I was blessed enough to witness Serena and her hair-swinging ways, of course: I had seen her amazing performance at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival this August as well. That particular performance can only be aptly described as completely magical, and so her return performance evidently had big shoes to fill.

My father was kind enough to buy me a ticket to the show, on the condition that I go with him. I certainly didn’t mind — free tickets to awesome concerts are not things to be turned down. My dad is a huge Serena fan, and has been since I introduced him to her music back in 2007, so he was understandably psyched to go. I was also excited to see her belt out her amazing folk/rock songs, and blow me away all over again. And blow me away, she did.

The opening act for the show was a young man and his guitar, and some very slow and sleepy folk songs. Normally, I wouldn’t have had a problem with such a thing, but it was so warm in the venue (Delta St. John’s Ballroom) that by the end of his set, most people in the audience were left half-awake and fairly annoyed at the air-conditioning (or significant lack thereof). I felt sure I could feel the whole room sighing and fidgeting at once.

When Serena herself took the stage, everything changed: the air conditioning seemed to magically cut in, and everyone in the room perked up a little. Of course, how could one not perk up when a woman is (as my father might say) heavin’ it right outta ‘er mere feet from your chair? The one thing about Serena that I think people really love is that she truly has a voice that could make stone walls crumble and armies stand down in awe. I swear, that woman has got a real gift, and I’m really glad she’s using it. Few people, women or men, have voices that carry over audiences like hers does, and with such raw emotion. Serena blazes through her concerts, while others must be content to sparkle.

This brings me to a point that I think should be made about this concert, certainly as it compares to the Folk Festival gig: Serena does best when she’s on her own: just her, her enormous voice and her pint-sized guitar. Last night, she had accompaniment from a long-haired rock’n’roll type called Johnny. While he was good, and relatively unobtrusive, I think his role on stage (not him, particularly) took away from how amazing her performance is on its own. My thoughts were “Why does she have this not-so-hipster, too-tall rocker playing with her when the show clearly doesn’t benefit?” He diverted my focus in a strange way — I felt that if there had been two other people up on stage with her (one on either side) then my mind might be able to put them both in the background a little more easily, but with just Johnny and Serena, I felt a mite more guilty that I wasn’t paying attention to him. I’m not sure if that makes a whole lot of sense, but I have a strangely organized mind, so that’s likely part of it all.

I was thinking, after I got home, why it is that Newfoundlanders seem to really love Serena, and I think that it is partially due to her strength as a woman, and a performer. As long as I’ve been alive, I’ve known us all to revel and thrive in the presence of a strong woman; she’s strong, and extremely musical, which wins her 100,000 more points in a game where 1,000 points would win. Serena’s strength and talent is her appeal, of course, but looking at her from a Newfoundlander’s perspective, I can understand why there was a full house last night.

In any case, she’s definitely rocked our world again, and let’s hope she comes back for more. I have a feeling she will, since she’s had such a great time here during both shows, and repeatedly says so. I know performers are supposed to talk up their audiences and stroke their egos, but I have a feeling she’s not that particular brand of disingenuous.

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