OUT AND ABOUT: Jason McCoy’s solo performance was crowded

You had this slick multi-media, heavily scripted show with just the right amount of spontaneity

Jason McCoy put on a solo performance at the Tidemark Theatre Nov. 21. Except it wasn’t really solo.

Nope, he had George Canyon, Terri Clark and Amanda Wilkinson join him. On stage. Right here in Campbell River.

Well, not exactly on stage. It was actually onscreen. Yes, McCoy put on a solo multi-media presentation making heavy use of video displayed on a big screen behind him on the Tidemark stage. The aforementioned buddies of McCoy’s would show up on the screen and McCoy would “chat” with them and then do a duet with some of the biggest names in contemporary Canadian country music. It was all choreographed, of course. But he played it like he was having a live conversation. It started to get me worried that he wasn’t going hit his cue on time.

And so it went. McCoy would make heavy use of the video. In one song, he was playing it live while the song’s actual music video played – with the sound off – in the background. Other times he was accompanied by a violinist and mandolinist (whose faces we never saw).

I don’t know if I like this approach. The “conversations” with the other stars was just plain hokey. I didn’t go for that at all. I didn’t mind McCoy performing a duet with the pre-recorded video, that wasn’t so bad, but the chatting with them beforehand like they were live and real was too much for me. That was too much belief for me to suspend.

Recorded backing tracks and percussion machines is a common performance technique these days and I’m not so sure I like it. Just play. Hire an accompanist. It’s one thing for the soloist at the neighbourhood pub to do it but for a touring musician, I don’t know…

But McCoy took it to a new height with pre-recorded accompanists on video. Now he did make use of a lot of images to presumably enhance his songs which worked alright at times but it always left me wondering what I should be looking at – the video screen or McCoy. At one point, the real McCoy (ba-dum) was bookended by huge profile images of himself. It was kind of eerie.

You see, I was looking forward to an evening of what I know McCoy for, his deep dulcet vocals, good basic country songs and some tasteful solo acoustic guitar playing. And I did get it, I just had to put up with all the other stuff as well.

When he stuck to just playing and if the video imagery wasn’t too imposing, McCoy was great. He’s a hilarious guy and I think he’s got a future in standup comedy if the country music thing doesn’t work out. He obviously loves the spotlight. But it all got a bit – just a bit – too much. In a two hour show I don’t know if he gave us more than 15-20 songs.

He followed what appears to be a common seasonal offering from country music these days, namely, the first half of hits and covers followed by a second act of Christmas songs. McCoy followed the format and when he sung and played it was great. His Christmas songs were beautifully done. McCoy is a wonderful vocalist. He’s one of those smaller guys who’s blessed with a surprisingly deep voice and he uses it well. McCoy was born for country music.

He’s also got the country showman thing down pat. I also have to give him kudos for his support of World Vision. Out in the lobby he had a table set up soliciting World Vision child sponsorships and if you signed up you got one of his CDs. Obviously, it is something he believes in and good for him. That was handled well.

So, there you had this slick multi-media, heavily scripted show with just the right amount of spontaneity – the bit with the Carolling with McCoy radio promotion winners was just too hilarious for words – that included charitable works for the Christmas season. A perfect mix. Throw in some talented friends who are big names in Canadian country – all part of a so-called solo performance.