Acoustic sets can be difficult to get right. When you’re reducing a selection of songs to just the lyrics and some basic chords, you run the risk of everything starting to sound the same. Sure, loyal fans may appreciate it, but how do you keep it interesting to newcomers for a full length setlist?
There’s a few things you can do: you can be an immense musical talent, for example, with a selection of songs that work just as well with a one man show as they do with a 30 piece band. You could also have an incredible variety to the types of songs you play, or create a consistent theme that sets the mood of your show. More audacious performers might even try to make the show more than just a musical performance.
Most performers will typically pick one of these ideas; Ken Tizzard, however, did all of them at Mahtay Cafe on March 17. He did more than just sing songs: he told jokes and stories, not just to fill the awkward moments between songs, but as an integral part of his performance. We learned an awful lot about Ken Tizzard that night, what makes him tick, what makes him sad and most importantly, what inspires him. Tizzard wove a complete narrative through his performance, spanning from his childhood in St. Johns, Newfoundland, right up to conception of his most recent record.
A number of Tizzard’s dear friends and loved ones appeared throughout the tale he told us, but none more so than Ron Hynes, the famed “Man of a Thousand Songs”. Tizzard has an intense personal connection both to Hynes and Hynes’ music, which revealed itself in great detail over the course of the evening. Many of the songs played were covers of Hynes’, and each came with a great story about the man.
Tizzard is more than a musician, he’s a storyteller, with no shortage of stories to tell. A whole life has happened to this man; his days of being a skater punk at St. Johns’ Harbour are long behind him. But that moment, and everything both before and after, is etched into his memory. No detail was forgotten as he regaled his audience with these stories; no word was wasted or expense spared. While he was talking about Hynes in between songs, he commended his ability to tell complete stories in just three or four minutes. Tizzard’s originals do much the same (and hold up against the songs written by his idol), but his whole performance takes the concept to another level. In around 75 minutes, Tizzard told us about an entire life.
It’s a joy to be a part of; I’ve never known a concert to be so personal and intimate. The overall result is that I left Mahtay that night feeling like I had gotten to know somebody. Ken Tizzard cuts a somewhat mysterious figure on stage, with a loose-fitting tie, leather waistcoat and eyes hidden beneath sunglasses and a trucker hat. But he’s not mysterious at all — he’d just rather let his music do that talking.