Warning: THE FOLLOWING IS WRITTEN BY SOMEONE TOTALLY SMITTEN WITH JILL BARBER.
She's been introduced, and the band is onstage, but no sign of Jill, until there she is: entering shyly from state left, wearing a baby blue, knee-length, empire waist dress with black polkadots, hair in a modified beehive, earrings dangling. Her shoes, I found out once I stood up for a closer look, were some kind of transparent plastic pumps with heels (if pumps have heels). On her face: the same blissful, shy, room-capturing smile she'd wear all night. And the room, the Exchange in Regina, was more packed than I'd ever seen it.
This is where the irony comes in, or goes out, or whatever irony does. She sang songs from her new Chances cd--retro, almost wartime-flavoured songs that, as the cd jacket says, "come clear and true to the listener." Without irony, in other words. That's the way she delivers them; that's the way this listener takes them. No doubt about it: she had me one hundred percent being her man, or leaving her, or making promises, or whatever else she wanted me to do.
But other listeners, like maybe the students I'll play a couple of her songs for tomorrow (on the way to revisiting the Robertson poem, see previous blog entry), will be unable to commit to her without irony. They'll think she's hokey, a dreamer, lost in some time warp. They won't believe her. Furthermore, Barber's not without irony herself, as in her comments about how glad she is to be "out of Saskatoon", which raised a predictable roar of appreciation from us Regina folks.
Listening to CBC on the way home, about half an hour ago, I heard a song called "If You Rescue Me," written by Lou Reed in 1969. Reed wrote it but, the dj tells us, could never sing it. "It's too pure and innocent," he said. His is the irony the Robertson poem claims, ironically or not, to be "sick of."
In the end, give me Barber. She put on a great show, as did her opener, the fabulous Royal Wood.
And best of all, maybe: I got to shout out the punchline I'd been saving ever since I heard Barber sing a song dedicated to "all the men I've forgotten but would like to say thank you too", or something like that, at the Regina folk festival last summer. As she introduced the song tonight, I shouted out "You're welcome" loud enough for everyone to hear. It worked!