Sylvia Tyson Timeless Talent Live

Sylvia Tyson Photo Credit: Christopher Lawson

Submitted by Don Graham
Photo Credit Christopher Lawson

There was a buzz in Toronto’s iconic Hugh’s Room on Monday night. There is always a bit of a buzz preshow but this was a buzz of a different register. Canada’s living legend and a huge part of the fabric of Canadiana and our roots, Sylvia Tyson was in the house. The anticipation was palpable as fans and admirers eagerly awaited her arrival on stage.

Sylvia slowly made her way through the crowd to get to the stage  accompanied by violin  legend Scarlet Rivera ( Scarlet came to international acclaim on Bob Dylan’s Desire and Hard Rain albums, and is included on his Biograph and Bootleg Compilations. She also toured with Dylan on several live tours, including The Rolling Thunder Revue and bass player Randall.Kempf, who is coming up on 40 years of service with Sylvia.

Sylvia took the stage looking every bit the classy star that she is, in a red top, blue jeans and her trademark cowgirl boots, this pair trimmed in red. It was her birthday and the first words out of her mouth were “Doesn’t seem like 77 years!” Indeed not, and doesn’t look like 77 years either. The richness and power in her distinct voice is as vibrant as ever.

She opened with “Same Old Thing” and had the crowd from the first note. She worked her way through the set with some other newer material such as the beautiful “Regine” about two sisters, a beautiful one and a plain one. “The Night The Chinese Restaurant Burned Down”, “Spring of 45”, “Denim Blue Eyes”, “ I’m Leaving Elaine”and a co-write with Tom Russell “Chocolate Cigarettes” an ode to Edith Piaf’s method of quitting smoking,  and “Poor Old Rose”. These showed her songwriting abilities and the tasteful accompaniment of Scarlet Rivera and Randall Kempf made for a sonic experience that was half ‘Riverboat’ nostalgic and one half present day ‘making memories’.

Scarlett RiveraScarlet RiveraOf course she performed some staples from the Ian and Sylvia days including a beautiful version of “Someday Soon” and the first set closer “Four Strong Winds” which featured a haunting violin solo by Scarlett Rivera. And one of my personal favourites “ River Road”. The final song of the first set was “the first song I ever wrote in 1962,” which  was “You Were On My Mind” a big hit for We Five. Sylvia said tongue in cheek, “My accountant asked me if I could write another one of these.”

For her encore Sylvia chose the beautiful ballad “Une Canadien Errant.” which was the perfect choice and left the audience content and smiling as they filed out of Hugh’s Room knowing they had witnessed a true Canadian legend doing what she does best. The smiles on their faces told the tale better than any review I could write.

The tour continues with stops in Cleveland at  Beachland Ballroom and at  Natalie's Coal-fired Pizza and Live Music in Worthington Ohio just outside of Columbus and  at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts in Woodstock New York, the Falcon Theatre in Marlboro, New York and  finishing  up on the 26th at The Sportsmen's Tavern in Buffalo, New York.

Thank you Sylvia Tyson for a wonderful evening of music and memories.