Published Oct 15, 2016The music of Regina-raised musician Andy Shauf is a solitary experience, rich in melodic landscape and melancholic themes. One of the greatest Canadian albums of the year, Shauf's third record The Party is a gorgeous study of loneliness, social awkwardness and solitude. From the first bars of The Party's "Alexander All Alone" at the sold-out Fox Cabaret in Vancouver on October 14 the seemingly shy musician created a mellow atmosphere completely focused on the themes of isolation he has become so well known for in his songwriting. Whether he isolated the crowd from himself depends on the individual experiences of audience members, but generally Shauf remained safely inside the walls of his well-crafted records for the duration of the show.
Slipping immediately into "To You" and the more playful "Quite Like You," Shauf very rarely interacted with the audience or even with his band, but concertgoers seemed to expect this given the mystique the quiet artist has created with his eloquent lyricism and vulnerable vocals. Members of Shauf's backup band were fun and expressive, which added a necessary contrast to the singer-songwriter's pensive persona. Sweeping into tracks from 2012's The Bearer of Bad News like "Drink My Rivers" and "I'm Not Falling Asleep", the impactful keyboard styling and guitar riffs that Shauf carefully moulded and textured were given electric life in the live format.
After acknowledging that his parents were in the audience, Shauf answered a few questions about his infamous long hair and whether or not he misses Regina (he does). Obviously a representative of his prairie province for many, Shauf's album themes and soft vocalizations often mirror the weather and vibes of the landscape there. "Martha Sways," "Jenny Come Home" and "Eyes of Them All" came at the heart of the evening, obviously beloved by Shauf's fans as a few of those at the Fox Cabaret called out for them. Perhaps Shauf was trying to place the room's occupants at the party his most recent songs center on — there is a sense of hyper-awareness of one's placement and interactions with others in the lyrics of The Party, and Shauf's poetic stoic nature transcended the lyrics and made itself evident on the stage. Closing with "The Magician," a simple but thoughtful song that focuses on the percussive side of the musical scope, Shauf set up his encore.
Choosing "Wendell Walker" as his encore was a no-brainer. The elegiac emotion-heavy single from The Bearer of Bad News is easily his biggest musical feat both instrumentally and lyrically. The sudden dips into heavy guitar portions and climbing octaves show off the very best of Shauf's talent and range. His performance no doubt inspired most to delve back into his discography post-show, as the rich lyrics are easier to digest in the comfort of one's home.