Ron Sexsmith – People’s Place – 29.04.2011

People’s Place is a private bar and event venue on the ground floor of the Tommy Hilfiger HQ building near Leidseplein. The folks at the Paradiso have started using it as an additional room for touring acts, but it’s not really a satisfactory space. A very wide column takes out the view for a significant part of the room, and lines of sight to the stage are poor unless you manage to get up front.

This was the first time I’d seen Ron Sexsmith live – a long awaited opportunity to hear someone whose songwriting I really like. While he performed well, with a good band and lots of good-natured banter between the songs, it didn’t quite do it for me. I’m usually quite comfortable in the middle of the road, but this was just a bit too far from the edges. It didn’t help that he played a lot of songs from his newest album, which I don’t have. I have four of his albums and knew only three, maybe four, songs from the 90 minute set. It was great to hear those songs and I enjoyed some of those that I didn’t know, but I think the sameness of the arrangements for every song made them all start to blend into one. He has a talent for clever turns of phrase and catchy melodies, but the lyrics were a bit lost in the mix and the melodies didn’t really shine through.

I think I’d like to see him solo with his guitar, or perhaps with additional piano; this was the set-up for the best songs last night. But he clearly prefers playing with a full band, and seems to be enjoying his music. Wikipedia tells me he’s been performing in public since 1978, so the fact that he’s still got his heart in it after all those years is good to see. And he seems like a good guy in general. Maybe next time…