Live at Convocation Hall

(Badman; 2002)

By Aaron Newell | 19 October 2007

I would have jumped up and kicked his ass. That fucking no-class alcoholic in the crowd who yelled “I LOVE YOU HAYDEN” during a perfect pause in “We Don’t Mind.” Hayden’s slow morning out, skipping work with his girlfriend, plotting a sweet co-conspiracy to call each others’ bosses and lie that they’re sick just so they “can have this day away," is interrupted by a now-immortalized neglected overgrown attention-starved cretin-baby who’s obviously never cuddled anyone in a phone booth while it rained. Prick.

Hayden’s live performance has been called (and I paraphrase): “a glaring spotlight on a weak voice.” To that critic I say: dude, that’s the point. Hayden’s charm comes from his ability to pull the sweet (and scathing) taken-for-granted moments from romantic relationships and write entire lives around them. His songwritten characters, from skate-shopping mourners to the ghosts of left-for-dead recluses, are all lent an air of authenticity by the fragile quality of their creator’s voice---the listener just wouldn’t believe these stories if they were belted out by, say, Celine Dion. Hayden’s personality is always stripped bare on record. It’s only fitting that his stage performance sound naked, too. Live At Convocation Hall is a near-perfect example of Hayden the bedroom folk-rock singer-songwriter in his element.

If you’ll look to the left you’ll note that the tracklist for this double-disc tour-ender reads like a list of Canadian Indie Rock’s Greatest Moments. For longtime fans, this greatest hits collection featuring one guitar, one piano, one harmonica and one brilliant cover (Neil Young’s “Tell Me Why,” featuring the wonderful harmonies of Julie Doiron) is a dream come true. In between the songs we love Hayden quips about his drunk, slutty cat and mocks Billy Joel. Can you suggest a more complete package?

I will admit: if you’re not sold on Dresser’s log-cabin fairy tales you’re likely to scoff at this recording---the same sparse performance could have taken place (and actually did, two weeks earlier) in the dingy, underground Cellar Pub on Fredericton’s more rustic, non metropolitan campus. First impressions have never revealed Hayden to be a stellar vocalist, but he’s got better range than Bob Dylan, so where’s that argument now? For those of us who have fantasized about sitting around Hayden’s campfire, wrapped in our girlfriends while he tuned his guitar (stirring a mug of Tim Horton’s hot chocolate, sheepishly reaching for our bongo drums...), this is the best music possible to accompany a propane fireplace and a long-distance telephone call. I feel like I was there, except without the assault charges. An intimately beautiful documentation of one of Canada’s most-cherished indie misfits.