The Old Church Concert Hall, Portland, OR

(Photo: Holly Hazelwood)

Spencer Krug recently joined Twitter. Now 42 years old, the prolific musician figured why not, using the medium as a way to communicate with fans, announce tours and share pictures of trees and his dog. Maybe there is something about being middle-aged where the edge recedes and the desire to truly connect takes its place.

Joining Twitter is just another step in the unmasking of Spencer Krug. In the past, the Canadian musician has performed in groups and under monikers such as Wolf Parade, Frog Eyes, Swan Lake, Sunset Rubdown and Moonface, yet this most recent tour is under his given name, peeling yet another layer of mystery. It makes sense as far vulnerability goes, there is nothing more exposed than doing a solo concert.

Krug played an hour-long set, seated behind a piano, that focused heavily on recent songs and unreleased material. Beginning with new song “Fading Graffiti,” Krug embarked on an emotional performance that held the audience in rapt silence, one that earned him a standing ovation by its end.

It is interesting to watch and learn a musician’s quirks at a concert. Krug’s voice frequently sounds as if it’s wavering on the verge of tears. Watching him perform matches that intensity. He often played the piano only with his left hand, gesturing and gripping the mike with his right one. Krug often got so lost in the emotion of a song that it looked as if he was going to leap right out of his seat. Flanked by the Old Church’s enormous pipe organ, the show did feel it could have been sacred in many ways.

Of course, it seems every musician who plays the space makes some church-related joke or another and Krug was no exception. In his banter, Krug was entertaining and thankful, introducing the songs and giving context on setlist audibles such as the last-minute inclusion of “The Fog” because someone asked for it on Twitter (yours truly: guilty).

And sometimes it’s hard to be a passive bystander, especially as a reviewer. I knew it was Krug’s birthday and when the show seemed to be winding down, I shouted out wishes to him. Soon everyone broke out in an impromptu version of “Happy Birthday.” Krug seemed humbled and appreciative, saying that this was the first time that ever happened to him (and also noted that he hoped it would be the last).

While the show was not a retrospective of Krug’s multifarious career, he did manage to sneak in a beautiful version of “Us Ones in Between” from the first Sunset Rubdown album. The setlist did favor recent material as Krug played three songs from his new Moonface LP, This One’s for the Dancer & This One’s for the Dancer’s Bouquet, including the gorgeous “Dreamsong” with which he ended the first set.

When Krug returned for an encore, he claimed that he had hoped to play more new songs but the night had different plans for him. For his final song, Krug reached back to “All Fires,” a 13-year-old track from his Swan Lake project. It was a triumphant and emotional crescendo in an evening that had so many. Spencer Krug has nothing to hide and hopefully this new found openness signals an exciting phase in his career.

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