Sarnia’s sweetheart Donovan Woods hit the capital city this week, with two shows at Club One.
The indie folk/pop balladeer sold out his Monday, Nov. 19, show, with American singer-songwriter Raye Zaragoza.
The venue was transformed into a seated theatre, and though this seemed strange at first, the soft music played at the intimate show required an intimate setting.
Most seats were full before Zaragoza began her folk/pop set, playing tracks from her debut album, “Fight for You,” released in 2017.
The Calfornia-based and New York-raised musician strummed softly on an acoustic guitar, and though the music was relaxed, her message was a call to action.
Zaragoza’s lyrics are inspired by social justice, writing protest songs about the pipeline conflict in Standing Rock, her home country’s precarious political climate, and her upbringing as the daughter of an Asian immigrant and a Native American.
Judging by the crowd’s attentive silence, the lengthy list of accolades and awards listed on her website, and the accessibility of her inoffensive Norah Jones-esque sound, Zaragoza is likely on her way to headlining international tours.
The evening’s headliner hit the stage at 8:45 p.m., triple fisting two cups of tea and a bottle of water to battle his ongoing cold.
The Nov. 19 show was the first time he had played solo in a year and a half, treating the audience to stripped down selections from his five-album discography, including the recently released “Both Ways,” which was launched in April 2018.
Woods opened with “On the Nights You Stay Home,” a song “not about cheating, but threatening to cheat,” he explained, inspiring laughter from the audience.
Explaining each of his tunes in-depth, his fans were given real insight into his body of work. His sad love songs seem to be heavily inspired by true stories from his friends, who often don’t take kindly to Woods exploiting their heartbreak for lyrical inspiration.
Woods is both a storyteller in both his stage banter and his lyrics, the funny anecdotes bearing only slight resemblance to the deeply emotive acoustic songs, like “Our Friend Bobby,” “Great Escape,” “Portland, Maine,” “We Never Met,” and more.
Truthfully, these stories were the highlight of the show. Easygoing and effortlessly comedic, Woods engaged his audience in a way that many artists do not. As one attendee shared on social media after the show, the banter “was worth the cost of the tickets and the numb ass from the heinously uncomfortable chairs at Club One.”
It should be noted that Woods’ music was unknown to us before the show, and we were clearly in the minority.
The crowd was deeply familiar with his works, hooting and hollering each time Woods introduced a song. A man behind me quietly sang the entire set — off key, and out of time — which was simultaneously infuriating and endearing.
“Endearing” is a great word to encapsulate Donovan Woods’ Monday night performance, which ended with a beautiful rendition of “I Ain’t Ever Loved No One,” Zaragoza filling in for original accompanying vocalist Rose Cousins.
I laughed, some people probably cried, and a good time was had by all.