Smooth Operator: Royal Wood corners the market on gentlemanly pop

Smooth Operator: Royal Wood corners the market on gentlemanly pop

(Image: Norman Wong) 

Royal Wood is no throwback. Despite his suede-smooth voice and fondness for Steinways and three-piece suits, he prefers to leave Rat Pack revivalism to the Michael Bublés of the world. The thoroughly contemporary multi-instrumentalist has a gift for layered, prismatic arrangements that evoke the work of Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks. As a lyricist, he wears his heart on his bespoke sleeve, offering up wistful tales of love lost and found. Wood’s sensitive poet routine has uncommon roots: after studying business at McGill, he moved to Toronto, where he began working as a foreign exchange trader on Bay Street. Then he released several well-received recordings—most notably A Good Enough Day in 2007, which got air play on Grey’s Anatomy and earned him an international following and enough security to bid a triumphant farewell to the trading floor. (Finance, Wood insists, was merely “the best and only option” to fund his recordings.) His latest album, The Waiting, was produced with Pierre Marchand, who has refined the ornate sounds of Sarah McLachlan and Rufus Wainwright. Marchand’s influence has helped Wood distill his whimsy into smart, sparkling art-pop nuggets: the tunes on The Waiting are crisp, clever and commanding. (Think Wainwright with more chivalry and fewer histrionics.) Wood’s fall show at Exhibition Place’s 1,250-seat Queen Elizabeth Theatre is his biggest headlining gig yet: the refurbished room has marvelous acoustics and a level of ceremony and elegance worthy of his dapper performance persona. At last, a venue that fits him as well as his finery.

POP
Royal Wood
In concert Nov. 26, Queen Elizabeth Theatre