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Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Annotated Wherry
(There are two possible explanations for this. First, I'm a total egomaniac who can't resist celebrating myself and my questionable taste in music. Second, I'm quite lazy and can't summon the ambition to update my blog with original content. Take your pick. In either case, here's a review of a Sarah Slean concert from the latest issue of Now, written, apparently, by my half-brother Andy. Who is a total dick, by the way.)


Near the end of her friday-night set at Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Sarah Slean turned to her audience and said, "However weird I get, you always come and watch me. I can buy groceries because of you."

Now, try to picture what it must be like when Sarah Slean goes grocery shopping. I wager she buys a lot of radicchio (easily the most eccentric of vegetables)(1). Or only purchases cartons of milk expected to expire on Tuesdays. Or exclusively eats citrus fruit grown in countries ruled by monarchies. Maraschino cherries(2) are probably a frequent purchase, too.

Not that her grocer likely minds. For one thing, somebody has to buy the maraschino cherries. For another, the grocer undoubtedly finds her eccentric eating habits nothing less than endearing.

Because this is Sarah Slean, this is how she operates. This is what works for her. She is a charming lunatic.

Onstage, in a little black dress, she bounces around barefoot(3). She speaks in accents of unknown origin or just trills her between-song banter. At various points, she mimes. Or appears to be channelling Judy Garland.

You or I would be unable to do any of this and still maintain friendships or steady jobs(4). We'd be shunned, if not committed. But with these quirks, Slean has fostered a devoted group of charmed followers as the winsome young couples at Harbourfront would attest(5).

Her lunacy is tolerated nay, encouraged because Slean is an artiste. A painter-slash-actor-slash-musician, to be exact. The sort who takes off for France and posts poetry on her blog ("There are chemicals of me-ness/ alive in foreign neurons, / indivisible tadpoles of a matterless she.")(6).

But what carries her cartoonish antics is what happens when she's left to a piano and her own devices namely, her voice. There alone or with a string quartet in between discussing Blink 182, sensible footwear and French culture, is where she justifies the weirdness.

For the most part, she succeeds. Slean is unquestionably talented, able to flit effortlessly from one personality to another. From ecstatic (Sweet Ones) to shattered (Last Year's War) to completely unhinged (Lucky You, performed barefoot with the aforementioned miming) (7).

While the vaudeville show is cute, she's still best sitting at the piano. There, her eccentricities are focused.

At various points, she would let the final note of a song linger, threatening to strike another, running her fingers just millimetres above the white keys before opting to let it go. It was strangely enthralling stuff(8).

Was she, in those moments, attempting to communicate telepathically with her instrument? Or simply selling the drama? Is she a certifiable loon or does she just play one onstage?

Maybe only her grocer(9) knows for sure.
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(1) This is indisputable. The rest of the top ten most eccentric vegetables is as follows:
1. Radicchio. 2. Cayenne Pepper. 3. Snake Gourd. 4. Winter Melon. 5. Pea. 6. Greater Burdock. 7. Dabberlocks. 8. Cress. 9. Fava Bean. 10. Tomato. (Technically a tomato is a fruit, but then that's what makes it so eccentric a vegetable.)
(2) A confession: I love Maraschino cherries. If Sarah Slean and I ever become friends and we buy each other Christmas gifts, each year we will exchange jars of Maraschino cherries. I'm entirely sure of this.
(3) She also appears very small. I would estimate her height at no more than three feet, seven inches.
(4) This should help you understand why I am no longer employed here. And why I have so few friends.
(5) I didn't want to say so in the piece... and don't get me wrong, I love gay people, what few friends I have are almost exclusively homosexual... but I dare say Sarah Slean has a lot of gay fans. Has anyone ever written anything insightful about the phenomenon of the straight gay icon (Kylie Minogue, Mike Piazza, etc.)? I find it very interesting.
(6) I will soon be posting here almost exclusively in haiku form.
(7) This should be "Lucky Me." Obviously.
(8) And almost impossible to describe to someone without sounding like an overly earnest, pretentious twit.
(9) Next week in Now: I interview Sarah Slean's grocer(10).
(10) Not really.

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