Published on November 8th, 2016 | by Jade Palmer


Concert Review: Jill & Matthew Barber (Saskatoon)

Jade ponders all the different kinds of love in the world after seeing siblings Jill and Matthew Barber during their Family Album tour through Saskatoon.

Wild apple trees blooming all around/I must be in a good place now/Sunshine coming through/Rainbow coloured sky/Paints pretty pictures in my mind.”

“Saw a butterfly and named it after you/Your name has such a pleasant sound/Love is all around and all I see is you/I must be in a good place now.”

The sweet serene atmosphere and soft rainbow lighting settled over the crowd in the Broadway Theatre. Swaying along with Jill Barber and Matthew Barber, I knew I was in a good place.

After growing up together near Toronto, the Barber siblings have made musical lives of their own. Jill, being a two-time Juno Award nominee, is busy touring and transporting audiences back in time with her playful voice, straight out of the thirties. Matthew Barber has branded himself a more somber indie folk songwriter with an impressive eight solo albums under his belt. Their styles meld together well in the collection of easy going, hand picked covers and folk country originals on ‘The Family Album.’

A slower version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘The Partisan’ touched on Jill’s French skills. The Everly Brothers’ ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’ was delivered a capella with no mics, and the sing along with the audience was enchanting. One of the few upbeat songs was ‘Oh My My,’ a bluesy lovesick tale with an infectious chorus line in the background. Obviously the genre changed a lot throughout the night, but one constant is the seamless harmonies that are made possible by sharing childhood experiences and bloodlines.

Jill Barber’s unique voice has a teasing sultry quality, thinly veiling childlike innocence, and I was curious to see which element would influence her stage presence the most. Instead of swaying hips or sending sexy stares into the crowd, she held her hands out and adorably tilted her head to the beat. She solidified herself as a vulnerable cutie pie rather than a vixen. She uses the seductive side of her personality in only a few of her jazzier songs to add dimension to her character.

The siblings were joined by a full band consisting of quite successful Canadian musicians including Robbie Grunwald on piano, Dean Drouillard on guitar, and Drew Jurecka on violin. It’s not a very common feature instrument, the violin, but it accentuated the country and jazz moods respectively with a dreaminess the recordings couldn’t hold.

Halfway through the set I found myself falling for their personalities and stories rather than the songs themselves. The music began to feel like a soundtrack in the background of a movie, gently supporting the mood of the story rather than taking centre stage. The commentary gave a glimpse into the lives off the stage; a gentle reverse-sibling rivalry where both thought the other was better than themselves. Matthew mentioned how the younger of the two, Jill, had surpassed him in having kids and owning a house. She balanced the scale by reminding him how much she adored him when he started playing music first, so much, that she picked it up to be just like her big brother. Many people couldn’t begin to imagine spending that much time with their siblings but the Barbers’ have a unique relationship forged through music. Their mother was backstage taking care of Jill’s baby on every stop of the tour, bringing ‘The Family Album’ name to a new accuracy.

Aging was an underlying theme to the performance. Jill’s country ballad ‘Big Picture Window’ brings the listener into an image of her first home with her husband, a luxury she never thought she’d want, but one she enjoys later in life. ‘Grandpa Joe’ is a slightly Celtic retelling of the stories the siblings’ heard about their great grandfather, who settled their family in Canada, taking an even deeper look back into their lives through someone that came before them. This form of self-understanding is something that many people develop an interest for only when they’re older. During the performance I was wondering why they were talking so much about growing old since they looked so young until I found out Jill was 36, and Matthew 39. I hope the youthfulness in their presence stays alive a long time.

Love is so often expressed in music as a solely romantic feeling but it comes in many other forms. I saw lovers in the audience squeezing thighs and sharing glances during the love songs, but these classics also had a different perspective because it’s a brother and sister singing them. The show was seasoned with a few of both songwriters’ originals, and when one was performing, the looks of genuine endearment radiated off the other sibling’s face. Jill and Matthew Barber reminded me of the importance of looking at the individuals in our lives with love, no matter what kind. I told a lot of people in my life I was glad to have them after this show.

Matthew thought the thickness in the air was because of the popcorn in the lobby, but I believe it was something more magical. Everyone’s particular but similar memories of love in all forms were collectively relived through the violin’s angelic hums and the siblings’ familiar lyrics. Our experiences floated into the air and danced to the songs of old, morphing into one universal understanding of our own pasts.

“Oh what a good day to go fishing/And catch the sunset in the hills/Dream of my yesterdays and tomorrow/And hope that you’ll be with me still”

“Saw a butterfly and named it after you/Your name has such a pleasant sound/Love is all around and all I see is you/I must be in a good place now.”

Ever since I saw Matthew Barber and Jill Barber, I am in a good place.

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About the Author

is an aspiring musician, writer, and unassuming horse lover. The colour yellow is the bane of her existence and really should just not be a colour at all. A pink haired perfectionist with an avid admiration for alliteration, Jade is finding a way to look at the world through a creative lens in an artsy career path as she continues life out of high school.

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