Terra Lightfoot + Lindi Ortega + Begonia + Kathleen Edwards @ Algonquin Commons Theatre, Ottawa – 6th February 2019

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The Longest Road Tour in Ottawa

It’s not every day I’d drive a 4-hour round trip from Montreal in freezing rain to catch a show! But this ain’t no ordinary show, folks. As part of a tour dubbed “The Longest Road Show” this felt like a truly unique concert celebrating some of the finest female musicians Canada has to offer, including Hamilton singer-songwriter Terra Lightfoot, Lindi Ortega and Begonia. It also included a performance from local Ottawa artist, Kathleen Edwards, who has spent most of the past few years away from the spotlight.

Evangeline Gentle

The evening began with a new name to me, Evangeline Gentle, introduced by Lightfoot herself, who instantly won over the respectful audience with her beautiful songs and easy-going manner. She thanked Terra for taking her under her wing and acting as a mentor, and on tonight’s brief appearance the future looks very bright for this rising star.

Terra Lightfoot in Ottawa on The Longest Road Tour

After receiving a Juno nomination for her latest album New Mistakes, Terra Lightfoot deserves to be in a celebratory mood and tonight she seems to be revelling in the chance to share the stage with musicians that she clearly has a lot of respect and admiration for. She’s brought along Anna Ruddick (Randy Bachman) on bass and Michelle Josef (Prairie Oyster, Lori Yates) on drums as her backing band, with the addition of Kelsey McNulty on keyboards.

Terra Lightfoot on The Longest Road Tour

Pinball King, a song about “our nation’s capital” gets a particularly rowdy reception as Lightfoot sings “just kiss me on the river canal” and Two Hearts’ “Love in vain” refrain results in one of a couple of moments of audience participation.

Begonia live in Ottawa on The Longest Road Tour

Lightfoot, Ortega and Begonia (Alexa to her Mom) take turns to bask in the spotlight, accompanied by their fellow artists, rather than having the stage to themselves for their own material, and it works fantastically well. Parts of the show feel slightly unrehearsed but that almost adds to the unique atmosphere of the event. Begonia’s vocal capabilities leave the crowd awestruck and her hilarious stories between songs just make her all the more likeable. Lindi Ortega plays in a wide-brimmed floppy hat that almost obscures her face when she plays guitar but her country-tinged Dolly-esque voice is sublime and her lyrics demand your attention.

The Longest Road Tour Terra Lightfoot Lindi Ortega

There’s a brief intermission, giving everyone the chance for a quick beer (alcohol is not permitted inside the theatre) and then Lightfoot returns to introduce Kathleen Edwards. Five years ago, Edwards posted a message on Facebook saying “I’m pretty sure I don’t want to make music anymore,” leaving fans worried that she was about to retire. Thankfully, following a few years away from the world of touring, she seems to be ready to bring new music into the world and her all-too-brief set tonight gives her the opportunity to debut two new songs.

Kathleen Edwards Ottawa 2019

Edwards jokes about looking forward to releasing one of the songs in the US as it namechecks Canadian Tire in the lyrics. Both new songs sound sublime and it’s a pleasure to see this underrated artist back on stage. The only song from her back catalog to make an appearance is Change The Sheets which reminds everyone what we’ve been missing.

Kathleen Edwards 2019

The rest of the evening sees the stage host to a rotating bill, where the artists once again share vocal duties and are obviously having a blast playing together. Each has their own distinctive style but the mix has a common ground made up of beautiful vocals, engaging song structures and raw talent. In the music world, it’s all too easy for female musicians to feel an unspoken competition between one another but tonight, as Terra is eager to clarify, is all about supporting gifted women and enjoying some of this country’s most genuine and heartfelt music.

Was it worth the the trip from Montreal? Absolutely!

Review & photos – Steve Gerrard

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