Bob Wiseman
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Bob Wiseman


Band Comedy Singer/Songwriter


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"Live Review by Jenn Chrumka"

The first time I heard Bob Wiseman play it was in a used bookstore in downtown Victoria. Among the dusty old books and the smell of chai tea (markers of this hippy town), my
boyfriend and I sat down to hear a show that would disturb me for years.

This musician sang with abandon about ex-girlfriends, old friends, friends who had passed away, new lovers, onto the corruption of record company execs, and neighbourhood cats. On and on he sang, everything coming from a place of vulnerability and rawness. He came off as profoundly in
touch with his lived experience, and from a place of total honesty, he wrote in hindsight about its impact.

Here was a singer who didn’t quite hit all the notes right, who feverishly played the piano in a way that could sometimes give you a headache and other times make you weep, who stuttered and stumbled, who wore a vest a size too small and a bow tie that rested crooked on a mismatched shirt, but who sang about love and loss so truly, that even the most tortured would be moved by his lyrics if they really listened. He made me feel like I knew nothing about relationships or heartbreak, even though I was head over heels. I left the show in a daze, holding my boyfriend’s hand tight, worried about the tumult that was sure to be in our future.

“If you’re going to sit on stage and sing, go deep,” he said during a phone interview we had last month.

“I want to have that intense experience with song because we just know too many songs in our world. So if you’re just doing something that’s been done a million times before, I’m just bored.”

I saw him again in Toronto, years later, again with a man by my side, but this time in a relationship far too complicated and painful. I listened to Bob sing, hoping that I would recover from the same kind of heartache that he still sang about. He made it sound beautiful to have a broken heart. His show by then had evolved to incorporate more video and he looked to have settled into a kind of peace - he has a wife who he speaks of lovingly, he even shows a video of her dancing in a wild way that forces you to smile, no matter how badly off you are.

I was surprised to hear that the
reasons for his videos aren’t art, or a greater expression of his ambitious artistic vision. No, they’re to obtain
attention, silence, respect. “Part of playing a song that you wrote is returning to that place that is vulnerable and difficult and it feels really humiliating and stupid to do it for people who are playing pinball at the same time,” he said. “As soon as you put a movie on, everyone shuts
the fuck up.”

Now older, I can listen to Bob Wiseman play and not leave his shows so rattled. Now I find him wise and hilarious. During his show at the Metro Studio just last month, he moved from a riff off the song “Duke Of Earl” to a ten-minute ode called, “She Only Wanted Misery” (you can guess what that’s about), all the while juggling
the accordion, guitar, and grand piano. He’s a musical mastermind who explained his process during the show as something like: “Creating a melody that listeners can follow, and then
abandoning it.” But through it, there is this thread of utter beauty and sadness that can only come from a writer who has the guts to put it all out there.

His knack of balancing humour with devastation is an ability he says comes with being an artist. “It’s what you can do as an artist that people who aren’t can’t.” You can make art of out
dramatic and greatly emotional things. More than that he says by doing so you can “thereby ix those things for yourself.”

“I had a friend that committed suicide when we were very young and it followed me around for years, [I was] feeling disturbed by it and feeling
guilty about how I knew him and how I didn’t know him at the time that he took his life. He was very young, he was fourteen, and I wrote a song about it, and after I wrote the song, it was done, it didn’t follow me around anymore.”

’m not sure if putting things into words leaves them behind for me, but I will continue to go to artists like Bob Wiseman to stay inspired. For now I suggest you go to his website ( and listen
to his music, I promise that at least you won’t be bored.



Formerly with Atlantic, Bar/ None and Warner. Has 12 cds in all and many examples on
Currently on BLOCKS