Music Reviews


Live at Convocation Hall


A hardworking Canadian singer/songwriter that didn’t seem to be going anywhere, Hayden Desser was finally discovered when Steve Buscemi asked him to contribute the title track to the brilliant Trees Lounge immediately following his support gigs for Guided By Voices. And if that song – co-written with Buscemi – remains one of his finest single moments on tape, it was last year’s Skyscraper National Park that proved him to be the tremendous talent that earlier full-length releases had only hinted at.

Generally speaking, you don’t want to follow your finest moment on tape with a double live album. But there you go. Live at Convocation Hall is Hayden doing his thing in front of a supportive Toronto home crowd. Hayden performs mostly by himself, although a few guests pop up from time to time, most notably Julie Doiron and Howie Beck on an affectionate version of Neil Young’s “Tell Me Why” – Young himself being a dedicated Hayden fan. And for an artist so reliant on the words, his songs work amazingly well in a large theater.

Hayden has a charming presence, cracking jokes and telling stories — in fact, the story preceding “All in One Move” lasts longer than the (admittedly brief) song itself. The songs don’t rely on any heavy production or fancy wrapping, and Live at Convocation Hall is testament of Hayden’s will to strip his already brutally honest songs to the bone, and to trust the audience to pick them up and make them their own. The set closes with an amazing four-track encore that brings everything to a perfect end, with both “Trees Lounge,” the aforementioned Young cover, and a stunning “Carried Away” proving just why Hayden’s audience is growing stronger all the time. A beautiful album – and it’s a double live set, dammit! Brilliant.

Badman Recording Co.:

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