There was friendly chatter floating through the air at the Rex Jazz and Blues Bar as the soundcheck began for singer/songwriter Becca Stevens. The room was packed, and with everyone in their seats, Stevens and her fellow musician, Michelle Willis, took the stage. Stevens and Willis had a comfortable and chatty rapport, and they started the night by sneaking a bowl of fries onto the stage. Stevens jokingly announced this was their dinner, after a long day of travelling all the way from Vancouver.
They had a very casual air about them which carried over to the performance. Stevens alternated between ukulele and electric guitar, while Willis was on the keyboard. This stripped back set led to an understated, yet powerful concert. Stevens used the performance as a way to showcase her newest album, Regina, along with older songs and covers.
Stevens would get almost entranced in her performance, and you could hear the drum of her feet tapping out a beat on the wooden stage throughout each song. Despite the lack of a larger band, Stevens and Willis were able to carry the concert by themselves. Although some songs (such as "Regina", or "Well Loved") would have sounded more robust with the addition of further instruments, the talent and passion from the duo was evident. As the concert went on the need for more instruments became less and less essential.
Stevens crafts strong narratives and characters in her music. She briefly discussed the inspiration behind her song "Venus" as her own take on the mythology of Venus and Ariadne. With a wry smile, she joked that "I play the better character in the song" (Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, rather than Ariadne, the mortal associated with the Labyrinth and Minotaur). Similarly, her song "Ophelia" draws inspiration from the past, and she creates her own story based on Shakespeare’s character. The song was captivating, with it’s sorrowful lyrics and gentle sound.
The middle of the set brought what Stevens called her “Jane Suite.” These three songs were created by Stevens as “settings” of poems by Jane Tyson Clement. It is clear how much care Stevens has put into these songs and how appreciative she is of Clement’s beautiful poetry.
Willis’ instrumental and vocal accompaniment complimented Stevens perfectly. They both seemed to draw off of the crowd, with Willis even choosing to play one song over another because she felt it fit the atmosphere of the night better.
Stevens has a strong and organic voice, with a broad range. This specifically shone when combined with the delicately plucked melodies on her ukulele. She ended the night with her cover of Stevie Wonder’s song "As", and left the stage to great applause from the crowd at the Rex. The concert showcased her not only as a strong and talented singer, songwriter, and live performer, but also as an artist with a great appreciation and love of music.