TODD MACLEAN: Mo Kenney had 'em rockin' at The Mack in Charlottetown

Kenney’s 2014 album “In My Dreams” has garnered a ton of award recognition


Published on April 6, 2017

Mo Kenney, right, performs with some members of her backing band at The Mack on Saturday, April 1.

©TODD MACLEAN/TC MEDIA

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Last weekend the stage at The Mack theatre was graced by Juno Award nominee and multiple ECMA winner, Mo Kenney.

An almost full house gathered to take in the first performance on P.E.I. by the Halifax singer/songwriter since August of 2014, when she opened for Joel Plaskett during the P.E.I. Jazz & Blues Festival.

Since then, quite a lot has developed for the young and rising star, who’s been playing since the age of 11 and whom Plaskett took under his wing seven years ago to help along as her career was just budding.

As Kenney’s 2014 album “In My Dreams” has garnered a ton of award recognition – including ECMA pop recording of the year, the CBC Shortlist Award nomination for best song/earworm of the year and a Juno nomination for adult alternative album of the year – she has continued to reach more and more ears with her brand of adult alternative folk/pop gems, not just here in the Maritimes but across Canada and beyond.

And last Saturday, an audience full of Kenney fans was given the live experience of the songs from her first two records, along with sneak peeks of new material that will be on her new recording due out later this year.

“Hello! Thanks for coming,” Kenney greeted the crowd when the show began at 7:30 p.m., and wasted no time waltzing right into her first big hit, “Sucker”.

“Hey, I’m a sucker for your face,” she sang, her bright voice filling the theatre with the song’s melodic hooks, while her acoustic guitar rang out in its plucked strings, over the tight rhythmic groove laid down by her backing band.

Continuing with songs like “Dancing”, “Mountains to the Mess” and another one of her big recent hits, “I Faked It” (which won first place in the 2015 U.S.A. Songwriting Competition’s folk category), Kenney soon laid down her acoustic and replaced it with a mint-green ’65 Fender Mustang in her hands, getting things a little more rocking. 

For example, her next tune in the set, “Take Me Outside”, I realized seemed almost reminiscent of Halifax Pop Explosion era four-chord alternative pop, circa 1995, which was certainly enhanced by the live intensity brought by Kenney and her three-piece backing band of drums, bass and electric guitar.

Todd’s picks:

1.    Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar – The Mack, today at 7:30 p.m. 

2.    Rose Cousins – Confederation Centre Homburg Theatre, tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. 

3.    Trailside Café presents Guy Davis and Fabrizio Poggi – The Pourhouse, tomorrow at 8 p.m. 

4.    Voices of Spring – Trinity United Church, Sunday at 3 p.m. The Confederation Centre Youth Chorus performs folksongs and classics that will be performed on the upcoming Chorus tour to Rome and Naples, Italy.

5.    The Real Story On Vimy Ridge – Trinity United Church, Sunday at 7 p.m. Presented by The Island Peace Committee, this commemoration marks the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge, with readings by PEI poet laureate Deirdre Kessler and David Daughton.And the hit song “Telephones” (which won an ECMA Award for video of the year) may have been written by the Cape Breton band Mardeen, but it was delivered with punchy gusto on that stage by Kenney.

After the big first set finale of “Déjà Vu”, her second set began with an intimate solo acoustic performance of “In My Dreams” and “The Happy Song”, as the band then joined in for that aforementioned sneak peek of new tunes from her upcoming album release.

Upbeat, and perhaps a little darker than her earlier material, the half dozen songs definitely seem like a departure from her paths to this point, but still lit by that same unique, creative spark.

“I’m gonna leave you with my favourite David Bowie song,” said Kenney, after the applause subsided for her encore at the end of the night  – as she added that she performed ‘Five Years’ before Bowie passed away, but that it’s taken on new meaning for her since his passing.

And with a rising-in-intensity performance of the song that grew to a fiery climax, featuring a ripping electric guitar solo kicked out by Kenney near the end, it was an explosive finish to the night.

“Since I have a new record coming out, I know I’ll be back again soon,” Kenney mentioned as the night neared its close, and so if you missed this show, you’ll probably be able to catch her on the Island later in 2017

For more on Kenney, visit www.mokenney.com.

Next week: I’ll be heading back to The Mack tonight to see Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar.

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 tmaclean@theguardian.pe.ca or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.