It was epic in a David and Goliath sense.
In one corner, a shrinking violet, the underdog: Hayden. A man accustomed to playing small, smoky venues. A man accustomed to hotter rooms, and audiences packed in so tightly, one wonders how they all got in there-and how they planned on getting out.
In the other corner was a brand new venue, unblemished, almost untouched, that towered over the folk musician from Ontario. Plastic chairs, all lined up, filled the hangar-like structure as fans filed in somewhat confused by the unnervingly sterile setup. Perfectly suited to the louder and more popular acts that had graced it in past weeks, MacEwan Hall seemed at odds with the quieter, more intimate artist.
And then he took the stage alone, armed with a guitar and a harmonica.
Suddenly the plastic chairs felt like velvet couches and the cavernous hall was as cozy as corner diner. Using a minimal set up, reminiscent of a student-directed high school play, he stood beneath very simple lights and captivated the audience with his seemingly simple music.
Alternating between a harmonica, a pair of acoustic guitars and a piano, Hayden did his best to please everyone. He even made use of a drum machine a handful of times over the course of the two-hour set. Rocking back and forth, eyes closed, leaning into the microphone, he seemed alone while he played.
That was, until he realized he had made a glaring mistake. "Oh shit," he laughed, stopping near the beginning of "Bad as They Seem," clearly the crowd's favourite song. "That's the second verse. You'd think I'd know these things."
Even in the always awkward in-between times, witty banter and clever anecdotes filled the void. Drunken-or possibly tourettic-audience members yelled at random in these silences, often incoherently, and the mild mannered musician took it all in stride, using the heckling and gregarious adoration to enhance the overall experience.
In the end, the story was the same as it was thousands of years ago. Despite being larger, more intimidating and seemingly invincible, Goliath fell and the night belonged to David and his fans.