It’s not every day that you can see a living legend perform, let alone in a tiny local bar around the corner from your house. But a couple of weeks ago I go tto do just that when Carole Pope took the stage at Handlebar in Toronto.
If you aren’t familiar with the incredible Pope, whether you know it or not you’ve experienced the legacy she’s left on Canadian music. Over the course of more than 45 years in the music industry, she has broken taboos, become a vocal advocate for the lesbian and gay community, and helped to shape Toronto’s ever changing alternative and punk music scenes. From her early days in 1960’s Yorkville the singer-songwriter made it her business to not only create music but to push boundaries and blow minds wherever she went, whether alone or later with her band Rough Trade.
The Kensington Market venue is already intimate spot, but on this spring saturda night it felt even closer, packed as it was full of dedicated and discerning music fans ready to see what Ms Pope had in store for us. The intrepid singer took the stage with no fanfare, just music, launching into “All touch no contact”, a sultry song with a rumbling beat. Pope’s throaty voice was strong and true, delivering the lyrics with a cool but seductively. Pope introduced the crowd to her latest EP Music for Lesbians with “Francis Bacon”. Pope characterizes the new release as chronicling “the funny and tragic things involved in being with another woman.” Wonderfully, Pope’s music remains not only relevant but current in both sound and subject matter. Anyone over the age of 30 was immediately taken back in time with the classic “High School confidential”, the voices joining Pope’s a vivid reminder of how deeply her influence runs. Infusing the set with wry humour, gentle intellectual nudges and charisma and charm, Pope was a joy to watch and a pleasure to hear.
If you missed Pope’s turn at Handlebar, don’t you worry! You’ll get a second chance to see her in Toronto June 26th at the Phoenix, or during Toronto Pride on June 28th. Until then, you can join me as I scour Toronto record store bins looking for Carole Pope records to tide me over until then.