Meet the new Lee

The Telegram

Canada’s one-time metal queen, once known for her thundering voice, racy leather outfits and oversized ’80s rocker hair, has returned to her father’s native province this weekend for two shows at Grafenberg’s tonight and Saturday.

But instead of belting out the rock ’n’ roll hits that earned her eight Juno nominations and many other music awards during the 1980s and early ’90s, a much more mature and sophisticated Aaron will perform cool jazz and blues material in an intimate club setting.

Tonight’s show begins at 9 p.m. and is all-inclusive for ticket-holders meaning an open bar. Saturday’s show begins at 10:30 p.m., and tickets are for admission only.

The shows are part of a cross-Canada tour to promote her new CD her 11th entitled Beautiful Things. The disc offers 12 new tracks that simmer with a blend of musical influences reflecting her artistic pilgrimage over the course of a 20-year career.

In addition to unveiling her new image to music fans on the Rock, the two shows also mark a homecoming of sorts for Aaron, whose father, Gerald Greening, was born in Millertown. He left the province at age 12, prior to Confederation with Canada.

Speaking about her first visit to the province since 1990, Aaron, who’s expecting her first child in June, said she’s excited about returning to the place that introduced her to Jiggs’ dinner and fish ’n’ brewis.

"I love the island. I think it’s stunning," she said last week during an early morning phone interview from a hotel lobby in Toronto, where she and her husband, John Cody, and their five-piece band were preparing to undertake a nine-hour drive to Sherbrooke, Que.

"As a general rule," she added, "I love touring the East Coast because the people are so open and friendly and warm. You can do a concert and people will invite you back to their place for tea. I just love that."

Aaron, an award-winning singer, songwriter and performer, raves about her band, calling them some of the best musicians on the West Coast of Canada. She says they always manage to steal some of the spotlight, something she’s quite comfortable with.

"I like to give each of the guys in my band a chance to shine musically and be featured," she said. "Overall, the feedback so far is it’s a fun show. We like to leave lots of room for spontaneous things to happen."

While she now performs jazz and blues, audiences can still expect a little of the edge that once made her a household name.

"It’s not a real boring, sleepy, cerebral jazz show," she explained. "We’re actually quite entertaining and fun. I think when people pay good money to come and see you, they should leave with a feeling they’ve made a connection with the artist, that they’ve learned something personal about you."

When asked what inspired her move from rock to jazz, Aaron said it was part of her normal maturation process. She said most of the hard-core Lee Aaron fans from the 1980s are now listening to a different style of music. She has evolved in the same way, except from the opposite end of the spectrum.

"I think it’s really neat for people that did enjoy my music back then to rediscover Lee Aaron now and see that I have evolved as a person. I mean, we all have, right? I’m creating music that’s more mature and sophisticated."

As for those who are discovering her for the first time, Aaron said the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

"We’re gaining a whole new fan base. It’s been great," she said.

Over the course of her career, she has been nominated for eight Juno Awards, won the Canadian Music Publisher’s Association Songwriter’s Award, a MuchMusic Video Award, three Toronto Music Awards, and an Amplex Golden Reel Award.

She has also graced the covers of an assortment of international magazines, including TV Guide, Melody Maker and Sounders, and topped dozens of music polls.

She started singing jazz and Broadway standards in local Toronto choirs and community theatre. Ironically, the painfully shy girl who hung around in the music room after school to study and practice went on to become a world-renowned rock diva.

By the mid-’90s, frustrated by the residual perception that defined her as a one-dimensional 'rock chick,' she decided to take a year-long hiatus from the music business. She resurfaced in 1997 on the West Coast, performing jazz and blues in intimate club settings.

In 2000, she released her 10th disc, Slick Chick, to glowing reviews.

She began writing and production work on Beautiful Things last year.

She now lives in White Rock, B.C., a place she describes as "the warmest place in the world." Her latest passion in scuba diving, but that will be the last thing on her mind this weekend.

"I’m just very excited to be coming to Newfoundland. I’m sending my dear old dad in Ontario a postcard," she said.

© The Telegram 2004