Published Apr 16, 2016To celebrate the 20th anniversary of his seminal debut album, Everything I Long For, Toronto singer-songwriter Hayden ended his two-week tour at home, in what was undoubtedly the best possible venue: a big old church. Much like most of the original recording, Hayden opted to do it on his own instead of with a band. This suited what was more like "an evening with Hayden" than a standard concert, with a backdrop mimicking a bedroom space that radiated the kind of cozy aura he made the record in.
As he set up, he played the still funny instructional recording of hidden track "Kraft Dinner & Poledo's Club Sandwich," and then played the album chronologically, albeit with a few omissions. In "Bad As They Seem" Hayden aged the teenage girl to 23, likely for his own comfort, and from that point on, Hayden began an open dialogue with the audience. He explained the decision he made to remain a "slightly negative, mopey, self-deprecating guy who holds a guitar" not just because he couldn't do what Father John Misty does, but because he "kinda likes it" — even though it wasn't "a good career move."
He introduced "In September" by admitting that, "I didn't do this song for years because I was uncomfortable," and then chopped away uncomfortably at one of the more aggressive songs in his repertoire.
Then it was "Question Period" with the audience. One fan asked if the song "Skates" really happened, and another asked about "Bunkbed," prompting him to divulge that his hatred for the song forced him to leave it off the recent Everything I Long For reissue. "I can't do it. I still hate it," he said. And of course, even though it was requested at every show on the tour, he didn't play "Bunkbed" or "Driveway," which he confessed he had to visit lyrics.com to relearn the words to. When he read them, he was too mortified to sing them.
Hayden did appease fans with a voice-shredding take on favourite "Skates," and then invited an amateur musician from the crowd to play "porn music noise" with him for instrumental "Assignment in Space With Rip Foster." The situation quickly descended into a comedy of errors, as her wah-sounds recalled "a lost chicken," and Hayden declared himself the "worst teacher in the world." Ending the set with "Lounging," he described the song as "the polar opposite of my life now," and then cracked up over the late-night dawdling lyrics: "I'm distracted about waking up at six with my kids."
He came back out for an encore, which included Elk-Lake Serenade's "Woody," a tribute to his cat, "No Happy Birthday," a tribute to his daughter and "Trees Lounge," which is likely a tribute to Steve Buscemi. Of course, someone took the opportunity to yell out a teasing request for "Bunkbed," and he saw the humour. "Still funny," he replied, without obliging.
After a few more, he came down off stage and joined the crowd to end with an intimate take on Elk-Lake Serenade's "Don't Get Down," because it's "one of my few songs that appear to be optimistic."
Twenty years ago, you'd be lucky to get more than a few mumbled words out of Hayden Desser at one of his performances. Now, he's a natural entertainer who has no trouble sharing himself with his fans. And for an album that is as ingrained in Canadian indie music history as Everything I Long For is, that meant the world to everyone inside the church.