SASKTATOON - Hundreds gathered in Saskatoon’s Victoria Park on July 2 to see a singer most people are used to hearing on the radio — Tenille Arts, back in her home province to celebrate The Saskatchewan Jazz Festival and Canada Day.
Arts opened the show with a bubbly performance of her single “Back Then, Right Now,” followed up with some more of her recent radio hits like “Life Goes Like That” and “Girl to Girl.”
Through her songs, Arts took the audience through the story of her life in music — from a series of hit songs of the ‘'90s that inspired her, an updated performance of one of the first songs she ever released, a funny, heartfelt love letter to her first apartment in Nashville and newer music she described as advice to her younger self.
As she geared up for a soulful cover of The Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces,” she even shouted out to her old neighbours from her hometown of Weyburn. Somewhere in the Victoria Park crowd, along with all her new fans, were the people who had first heard her talent and encouraged her as a young singer.
Arts’ music was a very country take on Jazz Fest, but obviously well-received by the enthusiastic crowd. By the end of the first song, children were waving, doing cartwheels and dancing. The grown-ups in the audience didn’t take long to join in.
Though many of her songs were backed up by a three-piece band on guitars and drums, Arts spent the core of her show singing solo, accompanying herself on piano or on a sparkly pink guitar.
The pared-down instrumentals fit the mood for many of her newest songs: As she told the crowd, her most recent album was entirely written over Zoom.
“I thought I wasn’t going to get anything worthwhile … but it made me get a little more vulnerable,” she said.
That vulnerability gave her the space to tackle hard topics like mental health and body image, which she performed with grace in songs like “Growing Old Young” and “That’s My Friend You’re Talkin’ About.”
Alone on stage, Arts’ lyrics shone through, and her bright, gentle voice let them ring out over the riverfront.
To close out the show, Arts and her band once again lit up the audience with a performance of 2019’s “Somebody Like That” — the radio-hit song she said “literally changed my life.”