Sitting in front of me wearing a patterned sun dress with the faintest bit of tanned skin and her hair loosely down, Jill Barber looks every bit your girl next door. But what people may not know walking by her on the street is that this woman transforms into an old-world sensation on stage.
A kind of transcendence happens when Barber croons into her microphone, and her latest performance at Vancouver’s Vogue theatre proved to be only another fantastical experience.
Talking in a quiet voice while making comedic remarks and above all displaying a kind of elegance that goes beyond her fifties-style dress and hair up-do, Barber combines the best of both worlds.
She is every bit the modern woman, but her music almost acts as a time capsule, taking you back to a time of romance and nostalgia across the generations.
Incredibly talented and confident, she projects a kind of demure sensuality that entices audiences of all ages, while she sings of broken hearts and hopeful endeavours in life or in love.
“All my songs I draw from my personal experience, and I have a deep well of experience,” Barber said.
“But my songs are not diary pages. I write in such a way that it is universal so that other people can see themselves in my songs.”
And it’s songs like “Oh My My” and “Chances” that rapture the heart of the audience. There was no sing-along chorus at the Vogue theatre that night, but hearing Barber sing, backed by her amazing ensemble, allowed our minds to drift and dream out of our crushed velvet seats.
With the release of her fourth album Mischievous Moon, Barber’s acclaim has reached new heights and the chanteuse is doing what she loves most.
“My goal has always been to play a lot, to tour a lot. I mean, I love making records and doing interviews but my favourite thing has always been being on stage and performing for an audience,” Barber said.
“That for me is where the connection happens. I’ve made my living slogging it out and touring across the country.”
But while it’s been a slow and steady build, booking gig after gig, Barber still gets caught up in the spell that she herself casts.
“I definitely have to pinch myself sometimes and think back to my teenage-self and think how far I’ve come,” Barber said, referencing her years performing as a young folk-singer/guitarist at her local coffee shop.
“That’s what makes it so satisfying sometimes, because you overcome the frustrations and at the end of the night you put on a great show.”