I was pretty excited to see Dala when I found out they were coming to Bloomsburg as a part of the Celebrity Artist Series. I love live folk music, and after hearing a couple of their songs on the web, I was ready for their show.
I was unprepared, however, for the caliber of the show that the Canadian duo put on.
Amanda Walther (the “Da” of Dala) and Sheila Carabine (the “La”) strode onto the stage bearing infectious smiles that showed they were genuinely excited to be there. They greeted the audience like good friends and immediately had us chuckling with their trademark wit and stories about touring.
Then they started to play. I had read about Dala’s vocal harmonies, but what I had read understated their sound tremendously. Carabine’s lush alto is more than soulful, with just the slightest edge that is smoothed out and complimented perfectly by Walther’s soaring soprano. They took turns trading off on melodies, and when the harmonies came together, they had the complete undivided attention of the entire room.
Dala opened the concert with a song about their native Toronto, both playing acoustic guitar. Throughout the show, the broad range of their instrumental talents was revealed. During their song “Lennon and McCartney”, they both sat at the grand piano. As Carabine began to play, she commented on Walther’s several years of piano lessons. Walther then flashed a smile and a wave and played a short tinkling riff at the high end of the keyboard, garnering laughter from the audience before launching into a dynamically diverse love song.
During another travel story, they explained how they wrote their song “Best Day” on an airplane before each bringing out their respective “carry-on-sized instruments”: a ukulele by Carabine and a toy xylophone by Walther. In addition to playing several original tunes, Dala played a few covers, including a slowed-down rendition of “I’ve Just Seen a Face” by The Beatles.
Each of the pair also played a solo song. Walther warmly introduced Carabine as her “best friend and second-favorite member of Dala” before walking offstage and giving Carabine the spotlight for “Fishing Boats,” which she wrote during a trip to Ireland. Prior to that, Walther played and sang a song that she had written about her mother, called “Saltwater Cures”. Both brought some powerful emotions to the concert, especially when they paired back up and played “Horses”, a song preceded by the story of a boy they had met who was suffering from life-changing injuries.
All the emotion was balanced out with humor in between songs. At one point Walther recalled a “stalker phone call” that had upset her, which prompted a one-line song: “Just because we’re friends on facebook doesn’t mean we’re friends in real life.” The audience erupted into laughter when the rich harmonies stopped and she grinned and said, “That’s it!”
The show seemed to fly by, and Dala returned to the stage after a standing ovation for an encore song. Then they moved to a table where they sold and signed merchandise and met with audience members, thanking everyone individually for coming.
Dala blew me away, not just as musicians, but as live performers and as people. They will be in the area again soon for Bethlehem’s MusikFest 2013 this summer. The next Celebrity Artist Series performance will be Kathy Mattea on Friday, April 26 at 8 p.m. Get your tickets now!