It is often the most unexpected of pleasures that turn out to be the best and tonight definitely underlines that point. At about 6.00pm, and having only entered this particular competition some 24 hours beforehand – more out of idle distraction than with any meaningful intent – I received a Twitter notification letting me know that I had “won two tickets to attend Dana Gavanski at Oporto in Leeds this evening.” Whilst I am most familiar with the venue, having been at many a folk and acoustic gig at this city centre bar’s regular Monday night Gaslight Club shows over the years, to my eternal shame I was neither aware of Dana Gavanski nor her music. As such, it was a step into the musical unknown, a venture mixed with feelings of uncertainty and excitement.
It was cold outside, very cold, and a series of on-street parking issues beforehand conspired to my managing to miss support act Jim Konopinski, from local Leeds’ band Cruel World. By the time I did arrive at Oporto things were clearly hotting up inside. The bar, which is divided from the concert room by a huge sliding door, was becoming increasing lively with Tuesday night revellers whilst inside the music room itself Dana Gavanski and her band had already taken to the stage.
The Toronto-based singer-songwriter was flanked by her regular live collaborator, French instrumentalist and recent Lost Map Records recruit Clémentine March on bass guitar and harmony vocals, plus a guitarist and drummer. Together, the four musicians produced a bold, inventive sound comprising 10 of Gavanski’s own glistening songs of sorrow and love plus one quite remarkable cover.
Dana Gavanski sings of fractured relationships and half-forgotten, existential emotions, wrapping her words in often delicate, distinctive arrangements that convey perfectly those universal themes of love and loss. With a more sprightly melodic spring in its sonic step, new single ‘Catch’ does, though, serve as a perfect counterweight. “I’ll try my best to make it this time”, Gavanski voices a note of cautious optimism for her own romantic future. Taken together these are all songs of real emotional depth.
The cover turns out to be most unexpectedly a song by those dramatic experimentalists and arch-titans of progressive rock, King Crimson. When we are invited by Dana Gavanski to guess which song it will be, it seems fairly safe to assume that it is not going to be ’21st Century Schizoid Man’. But it does come from the self-same debut Crimson album, In The Court of the Crimson King. ‘I Talk To The Wind’ here retains the sweet pastoral melody of the original, to which Gavanski has added a lithe, almost funky additional accompaniment. She tells me later that this album was one of the first she had ever bought, alongside one by Cat Stevens, illustrating the wide range of influences that perhaps inform her own affecting sound.
Dana Gavanski continues her current UK tour tonight at The Islington in London followed by two further shows at Bobiks, Newcastle (24th November) and The Grain Barge, Bristol (25th November).
But she will be back again in this country in the New Year when performing as a duo with Clémentine March, supporting Damien Jurado on his ten-date tour of the UK and Europe. Miss her at your peril.
Photos: Simon Godley
More photos from this show are HERE