I start this with a disclaimer. I know Shari Ulrich. I adore Shari Ulrich. We are kindred spirits in many ways. And though I haven’t known her for that long, I feel like I’ve known her forever. I suspect many in the audience on June 18 felt the same way. The only problem is I hardly ever get to see her, so I haven’t been able to tell her how great her show was. So, I will tell her (and you) right here.
Shari Ulrich has been a fixture on the B.C./Canadian music scene for over four decades. When I tell people I know her, their response is either, “you KNOW Shari Ulrich?!” or, “who is Shari Ulrich?” because like many other great artists, she has not been given the full recognition she deserves. That said, the audience at the Centennial Theatre was obviously in the former category, because these were die-hard fans who might as well have been seeing U2. The show was more than a concert. It was more like “An Evening with Shari Ulrich,” as she shared life stories, banter, and what was going through her mind at that moment. The stories were funny. Some were poignant, and they were all delivered in an honest and open way. She knew who her audience was and spoke directly to them. This comes naturally to Shari. You could see and feel her joy in performing, and part of that joy was the incredible band she had that night. The five-piece group was all musicians from Back To Shore: Scott Smith (guitars and dobro), Cindy Fairbank (piano and accordion), Kirby Barber (bass and vocals), Geoff Hicks (drums), and Shari’s own incredibly talented daughter, Julia Graff, on mandolin, violin, guitar and vocals. Julia and James Perrella also co-produced, recorded, and mixed the new album. (More about that in a minute). Shari herself is a superb multi-instrumentalist (guitar, piano, violin, mandolin). It would be hard to imagine another group of musicians so tasteful, musically supportive, and so in sync with an artist. The playing and singing was spot on. Not a bad note or an out-of-tune vocal to be heard. It’s also a thrill to see six people walk onto a stage to play music and note that four of them are women.
The two sets consisted of all 12 songs from Back To Shore and then select songs from her back catalogue. The introductions were basically a sharing of her creative process for each song, and her insights gave them even more meaning. I can’t say Shari would agree with this, but in my humble opinion, Back To Shore is her best album. This should not be a surprise to anyone who understands, “older, wiser, better.” Every song is a gem both musically and lyrically, and the production and musicianship is perfect. Life, love, loss, choices, appreciation, memories, the universe, and hope. What could be better on a Tuesday night, or any other day of the week?
See Shari Live:
- July 20 – 21 – Stewart Park Festival, Perth, ON
- Aug. 6 – Hugh’s Room Live, Toronto, ON
- Aug. 7 – The Carleton, Halifax, NS
- Aug. 9 – The Indian River Festival, Indian River, PEI