A review by
PORT HARDY—The North Island Concert Society could hardly be expected to book George Jones, Hank Williams, Jim Reeves, Bob Wills, Bill Hailey and Bing Crosby for its show at the Civic Centre.
But the society accomplished the same thing by bringing in their cousin.
Cousin Harley, the fingerpicking, rockabilly alter-ego of Vancouver guitarist Paul Pigat, energized a boisterous and appreciative audience of nearly 200 fans Saturday in the second event of the 2013-14 NICS concert season.
A spare trio, with Pigat on guitar and vocals, Keith Picot on bass and Steve Taylor on drums, Cousin Harley nonetheless provided a perfect sonic storm on a night when the concert society donated all the proceeds from its regular raffle table to benefit the Filipino victims of typhoon Haiyan.
Pigat and his mates ensnared the crowd from the opening rave-up, his self-penned Hey Babe, and left it whistling and cheering with the final encore, their take on the Johnny Burnette version of Train Kept A-Rollin’.
But Pigat wears many hats as a guitarist and performer, and modelled them all at various points in the evening. Possessed of a rocker’s drive, a country singer’s storytelling sensibility, a jazzman’s improvisational chops and a bluesman’s innate feel for the emotion in each note, Pigat kept the audience engaged throughout the evening.
A number of the crowd turned the open space alongside the seating area into a dance floor and jived, boogied and swung, depending on the mood of the song.
Cousin Harley delivered a therapeutic dose of hillbilly rave-ups and country swing from the likes of Williams (Fool About You), Merle Travis (Big Fat Gal of Mine, Divorce Me C.O.D.), Billy Jack Wills (I’m Feelin’ Bad), Jones (Too Much Water, The Race is On) and Reeves (Yonder Comes a Sucker).
But Pigat also showed a mellower, jazzy side with stylized, instrumental takes of Pat Ballard’s Mr. Sandman and Santo and Johnny’s haunting, evocative 1959 instrumental Sleepwalk. Pigat also acceded to a request by Picot and Taylor to kick off a two-song encore with his solo interpretation of the somber, depression-era Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?, made popular by both Al Jolson and Crosby.
Interspersed among these songs and blues standards like Bob Wills’ Brain Cloud Blues were a variety of Pigat originals, all authentic to the period, like B’hiki Pop, Jukin’, Obdacious and Hot Little Baby.
With regular drummer Jesse Cahill unavailable due to an untimely case of food poisoning, Pigat didn’t lose a beat by bringing back Taylor, Cousin Harley’s original drummer. Taylor and Picot actually were more flamboyant on stage. Sporting a purple suit, Picot was a bass-slapping, eye-rolling, head-banging dervish prone to picking up his upright bass and marching it around the stage while playing. He also needed no microphone to punctuate Pigat’s vocals with a series of affirming yells and echoes.
Pigat, meanwhile, let his fingers do most of the juking on the fretboard of his telecaster. And that was plenty good enough.
It was a second straight win for the concert society in its 16th season, following last month’s popular performance by Everything Fitz. NICS also raised $700 in its raffle for typhoon Haiyan victims. The society will now take a hiatus until Feb. 22, when original Canadian Tenor Ken Lavigne appears in front of his full band to sing a mix of standards and classical-pop crossover in the society’s annual dinner show.
For more information, visit www.niconcert.ca.