Headliner Arden, whose second A&M album “Living Under June” is approaching double-platinum in Canada and won her two recent Juno awards, emphasized cuts from the disc, including the intense “I Would Die for You” and the Juno-wining “Could I Be Your Girl.” Her backing group played with the kind of refined taste associated with fellow Canadian acts Leonard Cohen and Cowboy Junkies; the sound and lighting were remarkably good.
The closest thing to a drawback in her presentation is her seriousness; she varies tempos between slow and slower and loosens up only on a respectful revival of Lulu’s hit “To Sir With Love.” That number and Ann Loree’s “Insensitive” (a big hit in Italy, she says, thanks to its use in a TV commercial) provided a nice change of pace.
Sexsmith, who signed to Interscope Records’ publishing division before picking up a record contract, has been receiving the kind of notice that far better-known singer-songwriters would be pleased to have, including a rave USA Today review the morning of Tuesday’s show.
Highlights of his set included the bucolic ode to “Lebanon, Tennessee,” and Sexsmith’s reading of Harry Nilsson’s “Good Old Desk,” which appears on the recent “For the Love of Harry” tribute album. For a few numbers, Sexsmith, who accompanied himself on acoustic guitar throughout, called onstage bassist Scott Babcock and percussionist Bill Bonk, alumni of Brothers Figaro who had met the singer during sound check. They added considerable flavor.
Sexsmith dealt comfortably and wittily with the audience, noting his own vast hairdo and his countrymen’s reputation for constantly apologizing for things.
As it happens, neither Sexsmith nor Arden has anything to apologize for, and both should be occupying larger stages in the near future.