Terri Clark goes back to her roots at the Vogue Theatre

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Terri Clark | Back to My Roots tour | Vogue Theatre | November 12, 2016

Terri Clark is an accomplished country music artist, a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and no stranger to playing large venues, but for this Canadian tour she decided to go back to her roots, playing 41 shows from Prince Edward Island to Vancouver. Clark described this tour as one of the most gratifying experiences of her career, being able to play acoustic sets in small towns and big cities across the country, meeting fans and hearing how much her music means to them. She played in some towns so small they didn’t even have a Tim Hortons; some audience members were so unaccustomed to having musicians like her come to town that they assumed she was a tribute act. “So I started playing a bunch of Shania Twain songs,” she laughed. “I played a seniors’ centre the other day.” Right from the start, Clark’s wonderful sense of humour was a highlight of the show.

In the centre of the stage at the Vogue Theatre was a plush red armchair surrounded by six guitars and many candles, creating a casual, intimate tone for the evening. Wearing her trademark black cowboy hat, Clark sat in the red chair and played her heart out, telling stories from the tour and her career in between songs. “I know Florida Georgia Line is around the corner, so thank you for coming to see the old lady,” she joked. They were playing Rogers Arena the same night.

I especially enjoyed her story of returning to her home town of Medicine Hat, where there were posters advertising her show all over town. She needed some new bras so she went into the local lingerie shop, and the sales lady asked her “Are you related to Terri Clark? She’s playing this weekend you know.” Clark joked that it was nice to be recognized in your hometown. She has a way of highlighting the humour in many of her experiences, and she had the crowd laughing along.

Before playing “If I Were You” Clark explained where the inspiration for that song came from. She wrote it after a heartfelt phone conversation that she spent in the bathroom complaining about her then husband, Ted. Her single friend’s advice was to work on her marriage; she said it’s slim pickings out here and you should be grateful that you have someone, so don’t let it go that easily. Clark was 21 and liked the sentiment, which was not common at the time, so she wrote a song with that in mind. She played “If I Were You” during her Mercury audition which led to her record deal. Never missing an opportunity for a good punchline, she ended the story by saying, “Sometimes good things do come out of the bathroom.”

Although she lives in Nashville now, Clark is a proud Canadian, and she has always had a home here as well, previously in Victoria near her mom, and now in Ontario. She talked about her maple leaf tattoo and always wanting to write about being from Canada. “Northern Girl” expresses this sentiment beautifully, and I think most of the crowd, well especially the female portion, loved singing along with “I'm a Northern girl, wild and free / I've got four strong winds to carry me / I've been East to West and all around the world / But I'll always be a Northern girl.”

Some of Clark’s fans even drove up from California, Oregon, and Seattle, and in light of the recent election she asked if they would be staying. But she didn’t dwell on the subject of politics, and we got back to more important things like creating beats that would repeat in a loop to accompany “Now That I Found You.”

Clark took one request and played “Easy on the Eyes,” which she said she hadn’t played at all during the tour. She then got more serious for a moment to talk about her mother’s passing and the song that she inspired, “I Want You to Smile.” Her mom said that to her while Clark was at her bedside in the hospital, and the lyrics coupled with her account of her mom’s fight with cancer made for an emotional experience. She dedicated the song to her brother who was in the house.

When Clark first went to Nashville, she ended up getting a gig at Tootsie’s bar, so she treated us to a few of the covers she would play there. From her most recent album, Some Songs, she played the title track which she described as a “song about songs.” It is a wonderfully carefree track that sounds like the perfect accompaniment to a summer drive on a long, windy road. 

She saved her first hit song, “I've Got Better Things to Do”, for last, and although I’m sure she still loves the song, she expressed frustration at how many times she’s played it over the years. I’m sure it’s in demand at every show.

Clark came back on stage for her encore and talked about how rewarding this tour was for her, playing many sold out shows even though she isn’t promoting a new album, and meeting fans from all across the country. “I will keep showing up as long as you keep showing up,” she said, explaining that this isn’t a job for her, so she’s not retiring. For her encore she played the lesser known “Gypsy Boots,” and then gave her hat to someone in the crowd who wanted to give it to his wife. She said it’s the hat she’s worn during the whole tour; now that’s a concert souvenir.  

Before the show there was a box in the lobby where the crowd was encouraged to submit their questions for Clark to answer during a Q&A session, and questions could also be tweeted throughout. Clark shared so many stories and casually chatted with the crowd during the show that the Q&A was a nice way to continue the conversation in a more formal manner. We learned some more trivia about Clark and her career: the strangest thing she’s signed is a banana, she likes to unwind with red wine, she has six tattoos, she knew she had hit it big when she performed on the CMAs in Nashville and toured with George Straight; and she was looking forward to champagne, steak, cuddling with her three dogs, and catching up on American Horror Story when she got home to Nashville.  

Terri Clark is a truly gracious performer, a genuine musician, and a gifted storyteller, and all of those things made her concert extremely enjoyable. I won’t soon forget the warmth she brought to the Vogue Theatre on a cold November night.

Set list

1) I Just Wanna Be Mad for a While

2) No Fear

3) If I Were You

4) Three Mississippi

5) Now That I Found You

6) Easy on the Eyes

7) I Want You to Smile

8) Leavin’ On Your Mind 

9) Some Songs Need Air

10) Northern Girl

11) I've Got Better Things to Do 

Encore

12) Gypsy Boots

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