“It's been nice to get back out with the band and have a good time and feel that energy again,” country singer Terri Clark commented in a phone interview, six hours before taking the stage at the Centennial Centre on Friday.
Canadian country singer Shane Yellowbird opened the show with a well-received set of acoustic songs.
Clark hit the stage playing from her repertoire of singles, including a solo acoustic set, and a few new songs for a new album to be released next year. While on stage the singer promised to keep performing for her fans as long as they keep coming to see her.
With a crowd of youngsters and a few adults gathered in the space between seating and the stage, Clark played up the story-time setting. She described how she came to the decision to leave her record label last year to make music on her own terms, and to put Canada on the front burner instead of second to U.S. markets.
She also shared the story of her mom's fight with cancer. “Treasure your moms,” she said.
The set included “Gypsy Boots,” “When Boy Meets Girl,” “Northern Girl,” and an acoustic version of the Patsy Cline song, “Walking After Midnight.”
She told fans Bonnyville is a town she's heard named frequently because of friends working in the oil patch, but never visited, although she's toured through northeast Alberta before. Audiences in small towns are more appreciative of her performance because fewer artists play small venues, Clark said before the show.
“I remember living in Medicine Hat. Not a lot of artists would come to Medicine Hat, so I thought it was a huge deal when somebody did.”
The performance in Bonnyville featured a new drummer with the band, Jason Shiek. “He's completely destroying it, he's so good,” she explained.
Fans can expect Friday's show to be around for a while. Clark recorded the performance for possible bonus tracks on an upcoming album. “I figure Alberta has got the best crowds so I might as well do it here,” she said.
Coming off the Alone and Acoustic tour in the U.S., getting the band back has made performances easier. Clark described the unplugged tour as one of the hardest she's done.
“Two hours sitting in a chair with no band, no drums or nothing, to entertain a room full of people is very challenging.”
For Clark, getting on stage in front of a few thousand fans doesn't make her any different than the fans that come out to see her. She credits the connection between country artists and their fans for the strength of the country music scene.
“There's a connection between a country artist and the fans that there is not like in any other genre, and I think that connection is what keeps the longevity for the artist,” she says. “I just feel like I'm not any different than anybody in the audience, I just have a different job.”
Clark shared her mother's story in Canadian Voices, an inspirational book that includes contributions by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, television broadcaster Lloyd Robertson, NHLer Theo Fleury, and performers Tom Cochrane and Shania Twain.
Clark described what a fighter her mother was throughout her three-year bout with cancer. “She just kept fighting, and fighting, and fighting… She would just not give up.”
Clark played Fort McMurray on Saturday after Friday's performance, the last date of her Canadian tour. She plans to take it easy for a while spending time with her dogs, watching movies, and writing songs for the new album. The new album will be more light-hearted and carefree after the introspective and emotional The Long Way Home, she said.