Published Jul 16, 2012Prior to his set at Quebec City's Festival d'été, Brad Barr admitted he had his insecurities: the performance was only the Barr Brothers' second outdoor show of the year. He promised a half set's worth of new songs -- which could risk alienating their audience -- and then, there was the issue of translating the Barrs' intimate, complex folk into a large-scale summer spectacle.
Such trepidations were put quickly to rest. Taking the stage at sunset, the Montreal foursome quickly displayed why they're a cut above standard-issue folk-fest fare. First, there was the evident chemistry between Sarah Page's celestial harp and Barr's roving guitar, which intertwined tightly to jaw-dropping results. Then, there were the crowd favourites -- Barr spotlessly delivered "Beggar in the Morning," whose warm intimacy, incidentally, is built for balmy pleine aire sway-alongs. And finally, the band's improvisational penchant -- the bread and butter of the Slip, the Barr Brothers' jazzy, noisy project -- transformed the bluesy swagger of "Lord, I Can't Keep from Crying" into a meandering, bottom-heavy stoner jam in what would be their set's finest moment.
It was a moment that would make Black Mountain proud -- and completely unexpected for those predicting a set of headphone-ready folk pop. In a word: Impressive.