Gig/Concert: Jimmy Gnecco
Venue: The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Date: 17 May 2010
In One Word: Powerful
I can count on one hand how many times I have walked out of a concert and thought, “How am I even going to put this into words?”, that the experience was so powerful, one would only understand unless they heard and witnessed it with their own ears and eyes.
Those moments are so rare, but Monday night Jimmy Gnecco added one more to the count for me at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. Words cannot do him justice, but I shall try anyway.
The Ours front man took the stage alone with just an acoustic guitar as part of his pre-album release tour for his first solo album, The Heart. Albeit Gnecco’s set only consisted of nine songs because he was playing as support for Greg Laswell, over half the audience was there to see him, and he gave them a nice tease of what is to come once the album drops on July 20.
From the moment Gnecco fiercely strummed his guitar, he demanded the undivided attention of the crowd as he soared through a flawless rendition of the Ours classic “Here is the Light.” Not having the full-band backing him up made it obvious that Gnecco’s voice is best displayed solo, without the interference of other instruments overpowering and distorting it.
The rest of the show consisted of songs from his new album, such as “Rest Your Soul” and “Light on the Grave.” Seeing as I interviewed Gnecco last week about the record, I am familiar with the new material. What struck me immediately is that what he sounds like live is exactly how he sounds recorded. Auto-Tune does not exist in Jimmy Gnecco’s world. Both songs showcased perfectly his haunting falsetto as a hush of silence fell over the crowd.
He then changed the pace from slow to fast when he performed “Bring You Home” (the first single set to hit radio on June 22) and “Gravity.” He announced, “Next time I come back, hopefully you’ll be able to sing along to these songs.” It was a perfect combo as both songs are catchy with strong hooks. If the crowd had not been so respectful and reserved, more than a few people would have been able to sing along by the end.
He also treated the audience to a song not on his new album, but that he has had since 1996 called “The Bells.” Gnecco was in a story-telling mood. He revealed to the crowd that because of constant comparisons between him and Jeff Buckley (whom he loves dearly), he refrained from putting some of his best songs on albums because he did not want to add to the fire. But now he has learned to let go and let the fans decide. It was fast-paced and aggressive, and it included signature Gnecco screams throughout it. By the reaction of the crowd, it definitely seemed like they would not mind if it made it onto a future record.
At the same time, while Gnecco performed each song, the audience was extremely polite and quiet to the point I forgot I was surrounded by other people. But after each song ended an uproar of applause and cheers erupted, reminding me I was not alone.
Considering Gnecco told me in our interview it was tough to perform these songs every night, he seemed to be in high-spirits. He was often chit-chatting between songs, smiling, and making direct eye contact with fans.
It was not until he played a chilling version of one of his oldest songs “Darling” did the hardship become apparent. After he sang the last line eyes-closed, “Darling, I won’t let you go…” he paused at the microphone, took a deep breath in, and then came back to reality when he opened his eyes again. The same can be said for his heart-wrenching rendition of the Roy Orbison classic “Crying” which he dedicated to his Mom. His emotionally-charged, falsetto driven performance ended with evident tears in his piercing blue eyes.
Gnecco has the reputation of being Mr. Serious, but after “Crying” he lightened the mood by sharing a funny story about performing with Ours in Medicine Hat, Alberta as part of the Stars Down tour in 2008. They played after a UFC fight had just ended, so the crowd was taunting them, constantly yelling rude remarks. He explained, “I’m not the type to start a fight, but I’m also not one to back away from it.” While they performed, somehow the audience started a fire, so the band stopped playing and left to the crowd singing, “Na na na na na na na na hey hey hey goodbye…” to them. Despite the story displaying the stupidity of human beings sometimes, Gnecco seemed to take it in good-stride and had the audience laughing all the way through it.
He dedicated the last song “The Heart” to his cousin who got drunk that afternoon for five hours by himself because of miss-crossed wires. His cousin who just happened to be standing two people away from me threw his arms in the air and yelled “Yeah, I did!” causing laughter within the crowd. Gnecco explained that his cousin said to him, “It better be good!”
He then got the audience to clap along stating that he would “try to keep up.” The crowd never stopped clapping throughout all six minutes of the song. It is the one tune from Gnecco’s new album that displays the potential of his voice perfectly as he constantly switches from baritone, falsetto, and into a scream. By the end, it was the crowd who could not keep up with Gnecco’s quick, Spanish-like guitar playing.
His 45 minute set was over far too quickly and it ended with the crowd yearning for more.
When I walked past his cousin, I overheard him say so brilliantly, “That was fucking good!” – I could not have said it better myself.
© Laura Antonelli, Music Vice