The Canadian singer/songwriter just started his first tour with a band in almost four years, on the back of his newest record, In Field & Town (QRO review). And Paul Hayden Dresser very nicely balanced between high artiste and down-to-earth troubadour, joking with the crowd, but also holding up a high standard.
About half of Hayden’s set was In Field & Town, starting with its titular opener, whose low-key drive began things well. And he followed up Field’s first track with its second, “More Than Alive”, which was really more touching when he’s up close and personal. The Knitting Factory (QRO venue review) certainly allows for that, even in the Main Space, with the stage only a few feet up and, being slightly cramped, forcing a frontman right up to the front. And Hayden played to that, asking (and receiving) a scotch (see right) from a fan during a relaxed “Home By Saturday” (from his last record, 2004’s Elk-Lake Serenade).
Hayden playing “Home By Saturday” live at Knitting Factory, NY:
Almost as a reward, Hayden shifted into some audience favorites, including Field’s laid-back alt-country “Where and When”, Lake’s classic “Hollywood Ending”, and live staple “Trees Lounge” (last seen on 2002’s Live at Convocation Hall). However, the familiarity could get a little too much, such as when Hayden moved over to keys and his backing band, Cuff the Duke, temporarily left the stage. Right up at the lip of the stage and turned to his right, Hayden experienced a fan talking rather loudly right in front of his left ear, and had to ask for it to stop. However, he was quite apologetic about having to ask – and since it was the same fan that brought him the scotch, everything balanced out. And Hayden held up his end of the bargain, delivering a restrained but evocative solo performance on two songs, including one of his own live favorites, “Bass Song”.
Hayden playing “Bass Song” live at Knitting Factory, NY:
Also see them playing “Trees Lounge”
From there, Hayden returned to the guitar, Cuff the Duke returned to the stage, and they all returned to In Field & Town, with the harmonica mumble “Barely Friends”, epic “Worthy of Your Esteem”, and shanty-esque “The Van Song”. Field definitely had a presence throughout the set, even when Hayden wasn’t playing its material, as there was a large backdrop of the album cover looming over the stage (see right). It’s a drawing of the studio where he made the record, and wrapped around a corner it “looked more like the place than the place…”
Hayden playing “Worthy of Your Esteem” live at Knitting Factory, NY:
However, Hayden ended his set with older material, older even than Elk-Lake. 1998’s The Closer I Get got a showing with the fuzzier “Hazards of Sitting Beneath the Trees”, while he returned from his encore break solo with the wonderful “Bad As They Seem” (from 1995’s Everything I Long For). And again, Hayden married high standards to his engaging personality, as he kept stopping and insisting it sounded awful, but laughing with the crowd at his own actions. Luckily, keyboardist/guitarist Wayne Petti advised Hayden to play, and he did – with Petti getting a Corona from a fan in thanks (different fan, this time…).
Hayden playing “Bad As They Seem” live at Knitting Factory, NY:
Hayden & co. went into that break with Skyscraper’s “Dynamite Walls”, another live favorite of his, and they all together ended on that record, with the carrying “Carried Away”, witnessing the entire crowd singing along by the end. Hayden could be such an unapproachable music figure, given his prodigious skill, soft sound, long periods of absence, longer discography – even his name evokes aristocratic classicalism. However, he’s also Canadian, so he’s actually really nice and ego-free. Be sure to catch him on this tour and say hi…
Hayden playing “Carried Away” live at Knitting Factory, NY: