Tuck and Roach play strange Black Duck show

Halifax musicians bring memorable show to coffee house.

Saturday, Al Tuck and Gordie Roach played a show at the Black Duck—sort of. It was less a show and more of prolonged interaction that left the ten or so people in attendance to stumble home afterward and contemplate what they had just witnessed.

In a way, a small, odd performance like Tuck’s was perfect for the venue, emphasizing the Black Duck Inn’s quirkiness and beauty, from its gold lacquered ceilings to the papier-mâché cat that keeps coming up in conversations. Tuck’s homage to Stompin’ Tom Connors was reflected in the groan of the floorboards, and old country covers were played by the dim light of the counter to the hushed, attentive audience. Hank Williams’s country classic, “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” and “Ducktown,” which Tuck composed about our very own sleepy New Brunswick town and played here for the first time, stood out as highlights in an experience that worked in the oddest way imaginable.

As a venue, the Black Duck is inherently intimate, although this intimacy has to be handled correctly, and Tuck and Roach did achieve this at points, allowing for truly special moments to arise. “There Is a God,” a song off of Tuck’s new album Stranger at the Wake, really hit home in this regard due to its intensely personal nature.

However, Al Tuck and his accomplice, Gordie Roach, were clearly uncomfortable with the intimacy of the event, brought on by the size of the show, and possibly the personal introspection it granted for the artists themselves. This was only heightened by the genre-meandering set, which resulted in the show feeling like a look into their influences and body of music, which may or may not have been their intent. As an experience, the show was unique in that it offered its own brand of beauty, which was not produced through the more common forms of technical skill or purposefully induced emotional response; rather, the uncomfortable silence and ambiguous intentions of the artists culminated in a different sort of beauty in the two hours or so in which they played.

The show did suffer from a few notable issues. The event’s start time was changed from 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm shortly before the show was set to begin, though it did not begin until approximately 9:30 pm. Moreover, the set itself was drawn out, although this mostly worked well with the pace of the music being played. As the show progressed, it also became clear that Tuck and Roach were finished playing their prepared material but were carrying on with the set for the sake of the small crowd. The performance ultimately digressed into something far less enjoyable as the two played a few cover songs, marred by an apparent lack of communication between the two performers. After a dropped guitar and a poorly placed cover of “Blue Christmas,” Tuck finally reigned the set in with an original song, ending it as strongly as it began.

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