Joel Plaskett and all that jazz

Todd MacLean
Published on August 29, 2014

Joel Plaskett, shown in a recent press photo, was a big hit with the crowd at last weekend's TD P.E.I. Jazz & Blues Festival.

©Submitted photo

This year, the TD P.E.I. Jazz & Blues Festival decided to take a bit of a different approach and feature a few acts in its 2014 lineup that would typically be classified outside of the jazz and blues genre.

Acts that took the stage last weekend like Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case, Ron Sexsmith, Mo Kenney and The Joel Plaskett Emergency could all fall within this kind of beyond the genre inclusion.

Personally, as a fan of many styles of music, I do not have a problem with this, as I recognize that this booking tactic simply helps to welcome in a broader audience range for some shows of the Jazz & Blues Festival, which helps with financial sustainability and with attaining and maintaining a diverse and supportive network of attendees for the festival.

And while some jazz and blues fans may have been disappointed this year with the festival’s choice to include artists whose styles lie beyond the typical borders of these genres, I think the P.E.I.Jazz & Blues Festival actually hit the mark really well in addressing its stance on its FAQ page on its website — so much so that I would like to include the statement:

Question: “Some of the artists on the schedule don’t fit my definition of ‘jazz’ or ‘blues’. What’s up with that?”

Answer: “Musical genres are constantly evolving. This is especially true in the field of jazz which has, in recent decades, incorporated influences from musical styles around the world. Blues has been transformed by the rock movement that it did so much to create. This year we decided to push the ‘genre’ envelope a bit, enlisting some innovative young talent that is helping to drive the evolution of Canadian music today.”

And so, how did all of this play out, you’re wondering?

Well, I can tell you that I witnessed the results of one of these enlistings, last Friday night when Mo Kenney and The Joel Plaskett Emergency performed to a virtually sold-out P.E.I.Brewing Company room, as the capacity crowd of hundreds took in a rocking show of stupendous performances by both artists at the 2014 P.E.I.Jazz and Blues Festival.

The concert began at 8 p.m. as the stage was graced by Kenney, the rising star of Waverly, N.S., and this year’s ECMA winner for pop recording of the year.

Playing as a three-piece band, with Kenney on guitar and a bassist and drummer alongside her on stage, her well-crafted sound echoed throughout the Brewing Company, through songs like The Happy Song, Untouchable and her hits like Sucker and Déjà Vu.

Kenney also ripped out a slick cover of Mardeen’s Telephones, which will be featured as a cut on her new anticipated sophomore album, In My Dreams, due out Sept. 30. She also sliced out some pretty impressive electric guitar solos for the wailing crowd, especially in her finale cover tune, Five Years by David Bowie.

At 9:30 p.m. it was time for the Nova-Scotian-pride-filled-phenomenon, who could perhaps be hailed as the Duke of Dartmouth sometime if he keeps making it glow on the map as the home of one of the nation’s most adored artists, Joel Plaskett, complete with his band, The Joel Plaskett Emergency.

Tight and yet loose and free, rehearsed and yet on-the-spot innovative, intense and yet lighthearted, passionate and yet never taking himself too seriously — these are the names of Plaskett’s live game — and he was on it in a big way that night.

The Emergency’s truly-rocking 90-minute set featured songs like Through and Through and Through, A Million Dollars, Penny for Your Thoughts, Face of the Earth, Harbour Boys (done solo acoustically), Park Avenue Sobriety Test (new tune due out on next album), an unbelievable cover mash-up of Royals, Kung-Fu Fighting, Do Wah Diddy, Cupid and Work Out Fine (which was also so cool to hear Plaskett’s own song seamlessly mixed in the midst of these covers), Love This Town, Nowhere With You (a massive rock-out and crowd sing-along), Extraordinary and two encore tunes including one of the first hits from The Emergency’s 2001 debut album Down at the Khyber, Cry Together.

And through all the tunes (and many on-stage Polaroids taken) Plaskett kept the crowd wrapped around his finger at every turn.

So, I say, big props to the P.E.I. Jazz & Blues Festival for stepping outside of the box this year to feature what would unquestionably be described as “innovative young talent that is helping to drive the evolution of Canadian music today.”

Next week: A surprise for my Out and About Labour Day weekend.


Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.

Todd’s picks

1. P.E.I. Busker Festival – Charlottetown waterfront, today through to Monday.

2. Classic Music Reignited – Watermark Theatre, North Rustico, today at 7:30 p.m., featuring Meaghan Blanchard, Zack Squires and David Bell as they reignite Ray Charles and Otis Redding.

3. A.C.T. presents Much Ado About Nothing – Robert L. Cotton Memorial Park, Stratford, today, tomorrow and Sunday at 6 p.m with a matinée Monday at 2 p.m.

4. Shania Twain – Charlottetown Event Grounds, with the gates opening tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. Special opening guest is Corey Hart, as well as P.E.I. performer Trinity Bradshaw.

5. Spotlight P.E.I.: Catherine MacLellan – The Mack, tomorrow at 8 p.m.

6. Nathan Wiley – St. Peter’s Courthouse Theatre, tomorrow at 8 p.m.

7. Ron James – Celebration Zone, Confederation Landing, Sunday at 7 p.m.