Hayden Fédération Ukrainienne, Montreal QC, September 24

Hayden Fédération Ukrainienne, Montreal QC, September 24
Photo: Steve Louie
Maybe it was a nod to the scrappy, exploratory era that birthed Hayden's 1996 debut, Everything I Long For, which he was playing front-to-back here, but he seemed very keen to court some chaos in this grand, people's history of a two-hour show.
The humour in Hayden's music is subtle and in his banter, it's dry. He set a tone by launching his show with the pre-recorded silly recipe bits from his first record, playing a compelling version of "Bad As They Seem," and then inviting the audience to feel free to pepper him with questions about anything, whenever they wanted to. 
Some questions yielded insightful answers, such as his reasoning for leaving certain songs that originally appeared on EILF off of this year's 20th anniversary reissue (he referred to the jettisoned fan favourite, "Bunk Beds" as "stupid"), while some just gave him an excuse to engage in funny crowd work jokes.
Nothing seemed as wild as his open call for a non-musician to play guitar on the instrumental, "Assignment in Space with Rip Foster." A mother and her young son, Kim and Jackson, volunteered and it was amusing and endearing to watch this real-time wah-wah lesson take place successfully — even if Jackson unceremoniously and loudly dropped Hayden's SG on stage when the song was done.
It's incredible how well these songs of his stand up, and how affecting things like "Skates" and the super dark and shocking "When This Is Over" remain. The man can still quake and bellow like an angsty 23-year-old but with the control of a guy who now understands his own body better.
Hayden paid tribute to Eric's Trip's influence in the '90s by faithfully covering their Love Tara track, "Behind the Garage," and later took to his piano for an awe-inspiring version of the Tragically Hip's "Ahead by a Century." It was a celebratory kind of night — a tribute to a record and an era and a relationship between an artist and his fans that deserved it. None of this should be taken for granted. Hayden's artistic force is rare and magical.