Back in January, singer/songwriter Jason Collett came to the Windy City in a support role for friend and fellow Broken Social Scene member Feist with a performance at the 1300 capacity Park West. Though the room was slowly filling up during the vast part of his set, Collett and his band were impeccable in their presentation and he performed with the energy, charisma and vigor of a star in the making.
That show took place at 7:30pm.
Last Saturday night, Collett rolled through Chicago with is band Paso Mino for the second time in three months, this time as the headlining act at local North Side hang out, Schubas. About 1/10 the capacity of the Park West, Schubas provides an intimate vibe, terrific sound and reasonably priced alcoholic beverages. In other words, it's the polar opposite of the large, modern ballroom feel and $8 beers provided by the venue during his last visit. Last weekend's show wasn't a radio show or a buzz show, but it did have something in common with his Park West performance - a sold out crowd.
The close quarters and friendly environment fostered a conversational "bar room" vibe for Collett, and the 12am start time provided ample time for pre-show cocktails for both the crowd and the band.
As Collett and Paso Mino took the stage, it was quite clear that the band was already "loose," as their collective center of gravity seemed to come into question for a second. After strapping their instruments on, however, Collett and company came together and opened with the soft and quiet "Tinsel And Sawdust," the first verse of which Collett slowly strummed his guitar and sang with no accompaniment as if he was challenging the still-chatting crowd to quiet down and pay attention. With a beautiful sun burst red Gibson guitar flung around a blue blazer with a brown and white polka dot button down shirt and tight dress pants, Collett looked as cool as ever as he started into "We All Lose One Another," the fourth track on his recently-released new album, Idols Of Exile. The vast majority of the songs Saturday night were culled from this record, and though it was just released in the US in February, many fans spent a great deal of time singing along to songs like the bouncy, honky-tonk number "Feral Republic" and the smooth and sexy "Fire." Collett even tried his hand at "Hangover Days," a duet from Idols Of Exile whose recorded version features breathy vocals from the beautiful and talented frontwoman of Metric, member of Broken Social Scene, and part-time Tripwire contributor, Emily Haines.
Jason played a few new songs over the course of the night, one of which is about Highway 401, the road that connects Toronto and Montreal, which Jason said any Canadian band spends "way too much time" driving on. While the only old song he performed during his set was the old favorite, "Blue Sky," no one seemed to care. The friendly and receptive crowd seemed very familiar with his new material, and were, like myself, eating it up. The band eventually wrapped things up with first single "I'll Bring The Sun," "Parry Sound," and "Pavement Puddle Stars."
Jason then left the stage as Paso Mino closed out the set with an impromptu jam session before taking their leave as well. After a short group meeting, Jason returned to the stage by himself to sing a stripped down version of "Bitter Beauty," the opening track from his Motor Motel Love Songs LP, and the very appropriate, "Almost Summer," before welcoming Paso Mino back to the stage.
"This is normally a Friday night song, but I'm making an exception," Collett said smiling before breaking into the final song for the evening, "Pink Night." This bar room rock & roll sing-a-long contains the lyrics "I love it when my girlfriend calls me a cock-sucking faggot," which, as you might expect, was greeted by a flurry of hoots and hollers, laughs and smiles.
While the midnight start time may have facilitated a slightly less polished affair than their previous trip to the Windy City, the loving and friendly energetic atmosphere in the room made up for any short moments of musical "looseness" from the band. Though I didn't need any convincing, Jason Collett proved once again last weekend that he is a special talent who can easily be mentioned in the same breathe with Ryan Adams or Rhett Miller, and who possesses the main-stream potential of a Gavin DeGraw or even a Rachael Yamagata.