Concert Reviews Music

Montreal spills their excitement for Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS tour. 

Fans left an outstanding impression on the singer during her first ever shows in Montreal.

When Olivia Rodrigo released her debut single “drivers license” in 2021, it skyrocketed to number one on the charts and became a heartbreak anthem for an entire generation. Her debut album SOUR doubled down on that success, receiving a small-scale tour that same year. With her sophomore album GUTS out, she recently embarked on a worldwide arena tour, notably stopping in Montreal for the first time. She packed out the Bell Centre, playing two sold-out nights on March 26 and 27.

Fans of Rodrigo were treated to quite literally every song they could possibly love: every song, with the exception of two, in her solo discography was featured on her setlist. As a result, the night was a well-rounded and balanced mix of pop-punk anthems, heartfelt ballads and everything in between. Rodrigo did not miss a beat, and the crowd was right on par with her.

The show began with “bad idea right?” and “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” kicking things into high gear right from the jump. She then moved into some slower tempo songs like “Vampire” and SOUR cuts “drivers license” and “traitor.” These tracks put her fans’ dedication on full display, for every song was sung perfectly and each lyric was crystal-clear, even with twenty thousand voices singing in unison. The melodic runs on tracks like “favorite crime” proved that the crowd was capable of hitting all sorts of notes, with the starlet even giving them props for having the chops to keep up with her.

Her performance of “teenage dream” was a standout from the entire night. Rodrigo began with a monologue while playing the piano, in which she expressed her gratitude growing up and getting older, and being excited to see the girl she will become. A montage of home videos from her childhood played in the background, adding a degree of wholesomeness. The cherry on top was the end of the performance, where a clip of her childhood self speaking with her mother played. Rodrigo’s mom was asking her daughter about her upcoming first performance, to which the crowd responded eagerly with all sorts of cheers—a poignant, emotional moment perfectly executed by breaking the fourth wall.

Halfway through the show, Rodrigo embarked on a moon prop which would make its way around the arena. She waved to fans as they cheered raucously below her, performing her ballads “logical” and “enough for you” as she floated above them. 

Rodrigo maintained a solid stage presence throughout the entire night. Her stage featured a central platform which extended down the left and right side with two catwalks, by which she took advantage to visit each side of the stage periodically. She jumped around and rocked out to her more energetic songs, whereas she laid down and sat down to perform introspective, piano and guitar-driven tracks like “making the bed” and “happier.” 

She took time to hype up the crowd, acknowledge her fans, and even share anecdotes about the different songs, truly creating a connection with the crowd members. Her dancers were another key addition to the show: they were perfectly in sync and made their way across all parts of the stage, further utilizing the setup and adding to the overall stage presence.

Heading into the last leg, Rodrigo had fans belting out to more rock-leaning cuts like “all-american bitch” and the newly released “obsessed.” Once the song was over and she was offstage, the crowd gave a standing ovation in total obscurity—roaring for nearly a minute and a half straight. The pop star returned with “good 4 u” and closed out the show with “get him back!,” saluting fans in the crowd and those along the barricade as confetti poured down from above.

Concert Reviews Music

Welcoming spring with Loving and Fog Lake

Band Loving and artist Fog Lake marked the start of spring in Montreal during their 2024 tour.

On March 23, timed with the advent of spring, Canadian band Loving made a stop in Montreal for a performance at Foufounes Électriques, supported by artist Fog Lake, during Loving’s 2024 Spring tour.

Aaron Powell, known under his artist name Fog Lake, is a Canadian singer-songwriter from Glovertown, Newfoundland. He opened the night with a wave of nostalgia. Opening his set with “Bandaid Heart” from his album Midnight Society, he then transitioned into “Dinosaur” from his earlier work, Captain.

Performing solo with only his voice and guitar, Fog Lake opted for the stripped down sound of down-strummed guitar chords played with his thumb. To draw in the crowd, the artist performed a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” eliciting the crowd to sing along. Aaron also took song requests from the crowd, and played certain suggestions from his own discography like “Catacomb” and “Push,” creating a unique concert experience for the fans.

Transitioning from the intimate solo opening of Fog Lake, main act Loving took the stage, making a long-awaited return to Montreal since their last performance at La Sala Rossa in April 2022. 

The band is a trio from Victoria, British Columbia, consisting of brothers Jesse and Lucas Henderson with David Parry. It has since evolved into its core duo, featuring Jesse as the main vocalist and songwriter, and David as a multi-instrumentalist and producer. 

Exuding their meditative and indie aura, Jesse and David performed with four additional musicians. The band’s stage arrangement deviated from the conventional placement with the lead vocalist at the centre stage, setting Jesse, the vocalist and main pianist, on the far right.

The band played several songs, seamlessly flowing from one to the next, before addressing the eager crowd for the first time. They continued with select tracks from their latest album Any Light, released on Feb. 9, including standouts such as “Medicine.” The rest of the set went by rather fast—the band played songs back-to-back, including “Sweet Fruit” and “If I Am Only My Thoughts,” without pausing to check-in on the crowd. 

Although Loving consists of talented and cohesive musicians, there was a noticeable lack of connection with the crowd. Their show lacked the uniqueness that the opener, Fog Lake, effortlessly provided at the start. The disconnect between the spectators and performers left the audience feeling somewhat detached, despite the band’s impressive musical delivery.  

Albeit the main act’s slightly disappointing performance, both Loving and Fog Lake graced the stage in Montreal with exceptional music, setting the tone for an exciting spring season of upcoming concerts.

Concert Reviews Music

Lil Tecca shines at MTELUS

The New York rapper thrilled his Montreal audience, with help from SoFaygo and Tana.

New York rapper Lil Tecca made his return to Montreal on Feb. 27 as part of his HVN on Earth tour. The show marks his first in Montreal in two years and fourth in Quebec overall, following a tour stop in Montreal, and performances at Metro Metro and Festival d’été de Québec in 2022. 

His latest concert brought along Cactus Jack Records signee SoFaygo, as well as Tana, Tecca’s protégé who also accompanied him throughout 2022. Chow Lee, the remaining opener, was unable to perform due to issues at the Canadian border.

At only 17 years old, Tana entertains fans with his high energy. His synth-driven “rage music” brand of hip-hop is already embedded with adrenaline, and his performances are equally thrilling. The young rapper brought variances in energy, crooning melodically and chanting along to the ad-libs in his songs aggressively. He was constantly running and jumping across the stage, keeping the crowd engaged throughout his set. The audience resonated heavily with his biggest tracks, most notably his rattling breakout hit “Antisocial.” Tana’s set impressed and was a perfect tone-setter for the remainder of the show. 

SoFaygo followed suit with a similar musical style to Tana—distorted bass, stuttery hi-hats, spacey synth sounds—checking all the boxes of hip-hop’s rage subgenre. His set kept the crowd active, although not much was different from the one before his. His biggest hits did provoke a strong response from the audience: SoFaygo’s performance of “Hell Yeah” saw him at his most animated, and the crowd belted out every word to his breakout hit “Knock Knock,” which went viral on TikTok in 2021 (and was produced by Tecca).

Three hours had passed since the opening of the doors, yet the anticipation was at its peak. Cheers rang out from the very moment the “We Love You Tecca” sound bite was played, and he popped out moments later to his track “Yves.” The volume was louder during Tecca’s set, yet he sounded crystal clear. His vocal delivery was melodic and perfectly audible, with him sounding more animated than on record. 

The majority of his performance was done without a backing track (only the beat), making his vocal performance skills even more commendable. His set kicked off with the introductory six-track run on his latest album TEC, which brought the crowd to a peak with his latest smash hit “500lbs.” 

Tecca’s fans have a dedicated relationship with the artist, which was exemplified by the deep cuts he played. Fans were equally invested and excited to hear fan favourite tracks from albums like We Love You Tecca 2. Despite only being around for half a decade, the MC has classics within his fanbase thanks to his first mixtape. “Love Me,” “Did It Again,” and “Ransom” were met with bar-for-bar chants from the crowd and vibrant mosh pits. 

Tecca’s team showcased a great “fans-first” approach throughout the evening. Tana and their tour manager both took appropriate stops to ensure the crowd was being hydrated, and Tecca’s label A&R and camera crew were seen outside the venue interacting with fans and filming interviews before the show.

For any Tecca fan, a live show of his is definitely worth catching.

Concert Reviews Music

Armand Hammer sells out Bar Le Ritz PDB

One of underground hip-hop’s finest duos returns to Montreal.

On Jan. 20, billy woods and ELUCID made their return to Montreal. Known together as Armand Hammer, the New York rappers kicked off the second leg of their tour in support of their latest album We Buy Diabetic Test Strips at Bar Le Ritz PDB on Jean-Talon Ouest Street. 

The rappers played a sold-out show for a packed crowd that easily hit the bar’s 300-person capacity. At the start of the show, they announced that it was their first show of the year, prompting an enthusiastic crowd reaction. The room was dimly lit by a few red spotlights, setting a true underground feel. 

The show officially kicked off with songs from We Buy Diabetic Test Strips. Hearing these tracks gave weight to woods’ claim about the sound system: from the looming low-end on “The Unreliable Flexibility of Space and Time” to the brash, abrasive cymbal crashes throughout “Trauma Mic,” the sound quality was pristine. woods had previously played at the venue twice in 2022, including once as Armand Hammer. “I know that the subwoofer in this venue is crazy,” woods shared with the crowd. 

Armand Hammer’s albums are skillful displays of lyricism, and their live shows are no different. Both MCs rapped every word without missing a beat, and their lyrical performances were enhanced by their compelling deliveries. ELUCID swayed along to the beat while perfectly delivering his signature, unorthodox flow, which is scattered yet perfectly linear. Meanwhile, woods’ delivery was bold and compelling, occasionally bordering on yelling. 

Every bar was razor-sharp, and the sheer power of his voice commanded full attention. The onstage chemistry between them was undeniable, like any other show: they ad-libbed in synchrony, and their back-and-forth repetition during the end of tracks made their choruses feel like mantras.

From the psychedelic haziness of “Landlines” and “Woke Up and Asked Siri How I’m Gonna Die,” to the underground rumble of “Blocked Call” and “The Key is Under The Mat,” the tracks perfectly showcased the sonic versatility that made Hammer’s latest album so unique and enticing. 

Fans were also treated to songs from all across woods’ and ELUCID’s joint and solo catalogues. ELUCID performed “Spellling” and “Mangosteen” from his 2022 album I Told Bessie, both of which had guitar-esque twangs ringing out beautifully over the speakers. woods dove into Hiding Places (with Kenny Segal), a classic among underground rap fans for its harrowing nature. Its tracks made for some of the night’s best performances: “Checkpoints” was ridden with strong emotion, and the hook on “Spongebob”—his most popular song—made for the strongest call-and-response from the crowd. 

The pair also threw in two of their most widely known songs with Earl Sweatshirt, “Falling out the Sky” and “Tabula Rasa.” They wrapped things up with “Stonefruit” from Haram (2021), just like their 2022 show at Bar Le Ritz PDB.

Throughout the show, the MCs showed a strong connection with fans. They raised the volume twice to the crowd’s liking and stuck around after the show to sell merch and sign records. The artists who truly love their art are the same ones willing to lug around stacks of vinyl in their suitcases and take Ubers to shows. Between captivating, unparalleled music, compelling live performances, and one-on-one conversation opportunities, Armand Hammer are truly for the fans.

Concert Reviews Music

Travis Scott takes Montreal by storm

The Houston rapper put on an explosive spectacle at the Bell Centre for his Circus Maximus Tour.

On Jan. 9, Travis Scott made his grand return to Montreal with his Circus Maximus Tour, in support of his latest album UTOPIA. His last visit to the city was in March 2019 for the Astroworld Tour, almost five years ago. From the stage design to the setlist, Scott designed an exhilarating, explosive and energetic experience filled with tons of surprises and eye candy.

Following a brief DJ set from Chase B, fans eagerly started to open mosh pits as the intro to “HYAENA” began playing. Scott suddenly popped out from beneath the stage, accompanied by fireworks and flames. He jumped and dashed around to every area of the stage, sending the crowd into a frenzy. He continued with UTOPIA tracks “THANK GOD” and “MODERN JAM,” the latter of which was complemented by a stunning sequence of neon lights, both onstage and onscreen. This high energy was maintained throughout the night as the rapper performed a variety of bangers spanning his entire catalogue. 

He took fans back to the Rodeo days with fan favourites “3500,” “Nightcrawler,” and “Maria I’m Drunk,” as well as earlier hits “Upper Echelon” and “Mamacita.” Songs like “Aye!” by Lil Uzi Vert proved to be absolute starters, igniting the entire crowd into jumping in sync, from general admission to the seats. Scott also brought a more mellow tone to the show with slower, sung tracks like “90210” and “MY EYES.” His melodic auto-crooning sounded just as good as it does on record, and felt complete with the crowd’s cheers backing him. The Houston MC also let his vocal chops shine throughout the night, singing acapella on several occasions. He most notably kept The Weeknd’s “CIRCUS MAXIMUS” refrain going for an additional minute, launching into an extended vocal solo.

After a brief interlude, the intensity picked up as Scott pulled out more hits. The crowd belted ASTROWORLD favourites like “BUTTERFLY EFFECT” and “CAN’T SAY” word-for-word, showcasing just as much excitement for recent hits like “MELTDOWN” and “TOPIA TWINS.” These tracks were met with no shortage of smoke, fire, and fireworks either. “I KNOW?” made for a standout moment, with the crowd anthemically roaring the chorus after being asked to sing it.

The show’s pinnacle arrived near the end with Scott’s massive mosh pit anthem “FE!N.” Fans received no shortage of the hotly-anticipated song: it was played 11 times. Between each take he gestured to a section of the crowd, proclaiming that they were “feening for more” and upping the ante in the process. The mosh pits kept on coming, and the tension kept on rising. There was even a moment where Scott paused to call security (for unclear reasons) to no avail, prompting him to go through the crowd himself to handle it. Yet, even after stopping a fan from being ejected by security and returning a good three minutes later, he got right back into playing “FE!N.” He closed out the show by rapidly running through his classics “SICKO MODE,” “Antidote,” and “goosebumps,” before walking out to the ambient fan favourite “TELEKINESIS.”

The show’s biggest takeaway was its stage design. Spread across the floor, Scott’s stage resembles a mountain and is complete with different sections, altitudes, and platforms. He sang his slower tracks atop of a rising platform, bringing him closer together with the seated crowd. The entire thing was characterized by a realistic, rocky texture, as well as carvings and statues of archaic heads. The most notable of them was a floating, moving platform called the “parasail” (referring to the UTOPIA track of the same name). 

Scott selected a handful of fans to embark on the platform throughout the night, all of whom jumped and danced ecstatically while soaring above the crowd. One lucky fan was even joined by Scott himself during “I KNOW?.” Fans in the pit got the best view of the stage, but those in the nosebleeds were given an equally compelling view thanks to the videoboard looming above. This jumbotron wrapped around the entire arena, granting everyone a view and projecting bright colours, effects, and overlays over footage of Scott and the crowd.

Whereas the video experience varied based on one’s placement in the arena, the sound quality made for a seemingly unanimous experience. With subwoofers lined alongside the outskirts of the floor, the bass was extremely powerful, borderline overwhelming. Many of the lyrics were inaudible to those in general admission. Fans recall feeling their entire body rumbling, while others on the floor could be seen occasionally covering their ears.

Noise aside, the experience was clearly unforgettable for all. From the pits to the nosebleeds, practically every fan could be seen giving it their all. Marwa Lakehal, a communications student, got a first-hand experience of this: “Everyone was screaming the lyrics as loud as they could while dancing and jumping. It felt like I was a part of one big community.” Scott gave a speech only three songs in about how he loved Montreal for its energy, and what followed throughout the night was more than enough proof. Montreal truly gave Scott the rage that he fiends for when putting on his live shows.

Concert Reviews Music

1HUNNDWME and Occupy The Hood are redefining musical showcases

The Montreal and Toronto organizations teamed up to highlight burgeoning musical talent in both Canadian cities with a new format.

1HUNNDWME was founded by KufisWorld (Omari Jabari) in Toronto. Wanting to redefine the standard of mainly being able to perform music in a concert setting, he envisioned an intimate format akin to a social gathering. Mansa, a Montreal DJ and co-founder of local movement Occupy The Hood, teamed up with him to bring the event format to Montreal, curating a lineup of local singers, rappers, DJs and creatives from both cities. The event was held on Dec. 23, 2023 at Le Belmont, a bar and venue on St-Laurent Blvd. in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood.

The night essentially consisted of a back-and-forth between DJ sets and brief artist performances. R&B singer Sankya kicked things off with her song “Liquor.” Many of her friends were present and gave her a warm response, filling a small room with a roar of energy. Toronto rapper Lowk3y followed up with a charismatic, solid offering of Toronto trap. SLM doubled down on the rap energy, offering a combination of styles ranging from drill to house. Joined by two backup dancers, she even poured out shots for friends and crowd members, further adding to the lighthearted, carefree tone that the event set out for. Santanafive followed with some mellow, hazy, drumless hip-hop, setting the tone for Nicholas Craven’s subsequent set. Each set was only limited to one or two songs, which allowed the event to have a unique, quick flow. This granted both the attendees and performers plenty of time to grab drinks, socialize and dance.

In the interim of these performances were DJ sets from Gurafiku, KidCrayola, Jdrdoo, Noel, AkaRashad, and Mansa. Together, they created a melting pot of styles which gathered hip-hop, Afrobeats (especially Amapiano), and Brazilian funk (baile). This mix of sounds allowed for the performers’ different genres to come together seamlessly, a versatility that Mansa wanted to showcase with the event. “Sometimes it is difficult for artists to imagine their music blending in with the variety of sounds they listen to everyday,” she explained.

Headlining the event was Nicholas Craven, who premiered his Boldy James collaboration “Jack Frost.” The track was released on Jan. 12 alongside their latest joint album Penalty of Leadership. He gave The Concordian an early look at the artwork which depicts Boldy James being wheeled into an ambulance, referencing his near-fatal car accident last January. The pair notably recorded the album in the immediate weeks and months following James’ release from the hospital. “Fair Exchange No Robbery was art. This album is about pain and experience,” he said.

The event was ultimately a successful, intimate gathering of music-based creatives. From DJs to producers to photographers, there was someone to meet at every turn. Through their creative union, 1HUNNDWME and Occupy The Hood effectively showcased their city’s respective music scene with an event predicated on sociability and enjoyment.

Concert Reviews Music

Gaza Mon Amour: A night of music, poetry, art and solidarity at La Sala Rossa 

Montreal benefit concert and silent auction raises over $12,000 for Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund.

On Oct. 23, a benefit concert and silent auction for Gaza was held at La Sala Rossa. Montrealers gathered to raise money for the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF). 

The benefit featured music, art, poetry, passion and grief. Poet Ehab Lotayef delivered a speech and recited poetry in Arabic and English. “Our wounds, our demolished homes, / our violated skies, our teary eyes […] / protect us from your false promises / your empty words / and your Peace initiatives,” he recited, unrushed and with poignancy. Tamara Filyavich of Independent Jewish Voices also delivered a speech.

The first performance of the evening, by Hip-Hop artist Blxck Cxsper, was vivid and hard-hitting yet easy to dance to. “Nobody will be free until we’re all free,” they said. “Don’t turn off the news please, don’t try to ignore what’s going on.”

Ons Ammouchi and Josh Greenberg opened their set with a moment of silence, setting the stage for a poignant performance. The audience remained hushed, transfixed by Ammouchi’s soulful voice and the gentle strum of Greenberg’s oud.

Montreal DJ 1-Speed Bike―also the drummer for Montreal-based Godspeed You! Black Emperor―created a distinct, mesmeric musical ambiance between sets and speeches. Also performing were Yoo Doo Right, Durex, pOKmon and Yenne Velt.

The silent auction featured items and services from dozens of Montreal artists, artisans, designers, music venues and other organizations. Left Wing Books had a stand representing a range of anti-racist, feminist and left-wing literature, with 20 percent of book sales designated to PCRF. 

A donation of $20 per person was suggested. The show sold out at 300 people, with an additional 100 donations made after. A total of $12,000 was raised, not including donations made directly to PCRF at the door.

Concert Reviews Music

Montreal rappers bring on the “Beats & Bars”

Mike Shabb, Jo Dolo, CHUNG, Jo Compadre and Mr. Severe showcased the city’s broad range of hip-hop sounds, styles, and talent at Ausgang Plaza.

The Astred collective is home to some of Montreal’s best up-and-coming artists. It notably includes Jo Dolo and Mr. Severe who both performed at the city’s Metro Metro Festival earlier this year. On Oct. 7, they hosted a live show at Ausgang Plaza in Montreal’s Rosemont neighbourhood for a crowd of around 150 people. They were joined by Jo Compadre, CHUNG and Mike Shabb.

Mr. Severe kicked off the show, proving his talent as an MC. His backing track proved unnecessary as he ripped through all his verses with a bold, captivating delivery. He did not miss a single beat and his fierce vocal presence persisted through all sorts of production, from vintage 50 Cent-style cuts to trap beats.

Jo Compadre joined Mr. Severe for their collaboration “Nothing Lasts Forever” before taking the stage on his own. He performed songs like “For The Cause” and “Palo Santo” with a strong and well-articulated voice, despite sometimes ad-libbing along to parts of verses rather than rapping them. His performance showcased an impressive, rapid and focused flow that he tackled with a brazen demeanour.

CHUNG’s stage presence was stellar. Her delivery was simultaneously slick and sexy, yet cutthroat and poignant. It is perfectly complemented by her beat selection, composed of smooth soul samples. Most of her setlist was taken from her recent mixtape Chung Shui II with Cotola. The grooves on “Everyone” and “You Know I Gotta” rung out irresistibly through the speakers. “The Drum Sound” paid homage to her Jamaican heritage with its reggae beat and her use of patois on the track. “Sweet Dreams” contrasted as an ominous, hard-hitting boom-bap cut. 

Jo Dolo brought a change of pace and a burst of energy by starting off with French-language drill music. His tone was remarkably cold, which allowed him to equally shine over slow-paced, gritty boom-bap production. Dolo successfully drew energy from the crowd, regardless of musical style. Fans in the crowd bounced their hands as he spits introspective rhymes and jumped around, energetically swinging his dreads.

Mike Shabb closed out the show with a showcase of his sonic versatility throughout the years. He performed his melodic rap hit “SPORTS!” (2019) before launching into material from his recent collaborative EP Shadow Moses with Montreal producer Nicholas Craven. Craven joined him onstage for a triumphant and proud display of the fruits of their creative alliance. He also premiered two new songs: the grim “Hurry Up,” produced by Belgian rapper JeanJass, and the lighthearted, jazzy “Hey Young World, Pt. 3.” He also paid tribute to fallen friend and frequent collaborator Jeune Loup, performing his viral tracks “Sensuelle” and “Back sur le BS”: two of the biggest rap tracks to ever come out of Quebec.

All in all, the event was a success, bringing together a handful of local MCs equipped with a variety of impressive flows, sounds, and styles.

Concert Reviews Music

James Blake thrills L’Olympia

Montreal welcomed James Blake with open arms at a striking concert on Oct. 10.

English musician James Blake wears many hats, notably being a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, composer and DJ. His last visit to Montreal dates back to 2019, when he performed at L’Olympia on Saint-Catherine. Back at this very venue four years later, James Blake came to town following the release of his sixth studio album Playing Robots Into Heaven out on Sept. 8. 

The return to electronic roots follows up on his 2021 album Friends That Break Your Heart which did not receive a live show in Montreal. Long time fans and admirers of Blake’s music journey were ecstatic to finally see him in the flesh, this time to experience “a little bit of everything,” as Blake himself put it. The tour started off in Europe in mid-September and will end a month from now in Los Angeles, California where Blake is currently based. 

From his emergence in the dubstep scene in South London, James Blake has since contributed to countless artists’ projects as well as collaborating with many others from different realms of the music world. The list includes Beyoncé, Rosalía, André 3000, Metro Boomin, Kendrick Lamar, Mount Kimbie and Bon Iver, just to name a few. Blake is renowned to be a chameleon of his own calibre, and comparing him to anyone would be unfair. 

After an hour’s wait in the front row, the unannounced opener of the evening walked onto the stage. For about half an hour, electronic producer Rob McAndrews under the alias Airhead—Blake’s childhood friend who has worked alongside him for many years—offered the audience some electro-ambient tunes from his recent project Lightness full of varied tempos, reverb and bass with catchy guitar riffs. 

After Airhead had left the stage, the very last track of Blake’s brand new album resonated in the entire theatre, announcing his composed arrival on stage with a smile and waving hands. His station was to the right of the stage, with a keyboard and synths at his disposal. Opener Airhead was back for a second shift, this time handling the modular synth and guitar on the far left, which left the centre space for the drummer. 

The soothing and experimental instrumental track transitioned to “I Want You To Know,” a track with an equal amount of gorgeous harmonies and synths with experimental electronic touches. Some of the prominent bass in most tracks also pierced right through my body, making the whole room appear to be vibrating. 

The singer pleasantly surprised everyone by playing “Godspeed” by Frank Ocean, which he wrote, as well as doing an acapella and piano version of “Say What You Will” right after fans asked for it to be performed. Songs from his new album continued, but key tracks such as “Love Me In Whatever Way,” “Can’t Believe The Way We Flow,” “Retrograde,” and “Limit to Your Love” from past albums were also part of the setlist. The gifted artist concluded his concert with an experimental high-tempo remix to finish the night on a high.

James Blake’s singing was controlled throughout the entire show, conveying lyrics full of introspection and pensive vulnerability while he simultaneously played the keys. Effects ranged from soft and delayed vocals to more powerful and raw singing. Opposed to the so-called “sad boy” title that some people have given him, Blake confidently shares melancholy and heartache messages without being “afraid of being seen as weak or soft,” as he expressed in a 2018 tweet. To this day—and all over his stage presence at L’Olympia—Blake is in tune with himself and proudly exchanges his catalog with the crowd. 

One of the key takeaways from the concert, which made it extra special for me, was the decision to not incorporate any computer in the live performance despite it being a heavily electronic set. As for stage lighting, the simple but effective use of light bulbs around the perimeter of the theatre’s structure created this tinted barrier of light play between the crowd and the artists on stage. The audience, and me included, vividly cheered and eagerly clapped in between each track. Blake commented on the passionate response saying that he and the band were more than happy to be back in Montreal. 

“We got off stage and we all said to each other this is just the best gig we’ve done in ages,” James Blake expressed to the audience when returning from the encore intermission.

Concert Reviews Music

Lil Yachty Takes Montreal on the Field Trip Tour

The Georgia rapper blends psychedelic rock with rap in an electrifying fashion on his first tour to stop in Montreal.

On Sept. 27, Lil Yachty brought his Field Trip Tour to Montreal. Nearly 2,000 fans gathered at MTELUS to witness the artist’s musical creativity, as well as his ability to send people into a mosh pit-filled frenzy through a series of consecutive hits.

The show was preceded by two opening acts: the first was the Concrete Family, composed of artists signed to Yachty’s Concrete Boyz label. Camo31, KarrahBooo, DC2Trill, and Draft Day each delivered personality-filled performances, complementing each other’s energy and introducing each other to maintain the hype they established. Nick Hakim, an alternative artist who helped produce on Yachty’s most recent record Let’s Start Here followed up, although his style translated less with the hip-hop-oriented audience.

The show was opened and closed by music from Yachty’s latest album, a psychedelic rock effort. Yachty appeared onstage when his song “drive ME crazy!,” was being played by his live band composed of vocalists, a bassist, and a guitarist. The track’s irresistible groove and catchy chorus were harmonized by lights of all colours and hypnotic background visuals, all of which enhanced the album’s psychedelic sound in a live setting. 

Yachty’s vocal performances impressed as he belted out the hooks to songs like “the ride-” and “sAy sOMETHINg.” The latter received a stripped-down rendition that highlighted the singer’s bright and bubbly vocals on the track—vocal qualities that call back to his breakout 2016 mixtape Lil Boat.

After a brief interlude by the band, Yachty headed into a medley of his rap material, kicking off with recent hits “SOLO STEPPIN CRETE BOY,” and “Slide.” He cycled through one banger after another, keeping the crowd invigorated as they moshed and jumped around. He also ran through collaborations with various rappers such as Future and Playboi Carti. 

Before playing “Yacht Club,” a song featuring Juice WRLD, Yachty gathered the crowd for a moment of silence to pay tribute to the Chicago rapper who passed away in 2019. Yachty then revisited some of his earliest viral guest features on KYLE’s “iSpy” and DRAM’s “Broccoli,” as well as his recent viral solo tracks “Poland” and “Strike (Holster).”. The crowd was notably pushier and harder to navigate through during the rap section, with mosh pits opening at every turn.

The show’s final leg made room for psychedelic rock once again. Lil Yachty’s stage presence during his psych-rock bits was notable, with him bobbing around and rocking out energetically to the instrumentals. The bright lights and visuals returned along with the live instrumentation, which continued to elevate the tracks on Let’s Start Here. 

The album’s intro “the BLACK seminole.” made for an impeccable closer. With its succession of groovy guitars, an electric guitar solo, and a hard-hitting drum breakdown complete with a solo by Yachty’s guest vocalist, the song played out as a magnificent send-off.

It perfectly demonstrated the unique and powerful artistic evolution that Yachty was able to execute not only with this last album, but also with this tour. It was an audiovisual experience filled with live instruments, quality vocal performances, and eye-catching visuals—with a handful of rap bangers to complete the recipe.

Concert Reviews Festival Review Music

Sophie Ogilvie with Bodywash at Tiny Fest 2023

Montreal musician and Concordia student hits the stage at Tiny Fest’s third edition.

Even with summer behind us, musical festivities in Montreal are far from taking a break. Tiny Fest, a local music festival featuring bands and artists, presented its third edition on Oct. 6–7. It was hosted and produced by Worst Dad Ever, an event organization that puts together independent shows, tours and gigs for touring bands. Among the same venues from last year, La Sala Rossa and La Sotterenea, the small but cherished venue Casa Del Popolo got added to the mix this year. 

I had the chance to attend the festival on its last day. Montreal singer and songwriter Sophie Ogilvie was the last act on the Saturday evening’s lineup. Bodywash—a local band with airy vocals and atmospheric sounds—played their respective show on the previous day and happened to be the backing band for Ogilvie’s gig. Concordia was also definitely in the house owing to the facts that Sophie Ogilvie herself is a current MA student, Bodywash’s Rosie Long Decter is a recent graduate and Concordia’s radio station CJLO 1690 AM was on the event sponsor list.

Before the final and main act of the night, I was able to catch a glimpse of the set from Toronto’s Westelaken. The “post-country” band set the mood for the rest of the evening, notably with their poignant and raw vocal delivery from frontman Jordan Seccareccia accompanied with sweet piano chords and handled rhythm with the drumset. Most of the songs were from their album I am Steaming Mushrooms released early this year. 

As for Sophie Ogilvie, her recent project Coming Up, Crocus was at the core of the live performance. Labelled as an indie rock artist on streaming services, Ogilvie has effectively merged jazz, R&B, and 90s alternative into her debut EP. Fellow friends of Ogilvie in the band Bodywash accompanied her with background vocals, bass, guitar and keys. Chris Steward from the band also worked on Coming Up, Crocus and as Sophie Ogilvie puts it, the album is “a labour of the two of us mostly.” 

Throughout the set, the singer promoted the delicate EP which, as stated in her Bandcamp bio, “chronicles how one season passes into the next and how a relationship resolves itself into something gone.” The single “Milk Glass” highlights exactly that, notably with my favourite lyrics—“And I don’t want to need anything I take from you, but I do.” The catchy harmonies of “I do” repeating only enhance the vulnerable message. 

The concept of change in motion is a prominent theme in the EP as well. The set went from featuring acoustic tracks like “New Friend,” putting forward Ogilvie’s soft vocals and guitar skills, to the most energetic track “Lash” which the Montreal artist asked the audience to dance to. 

Despite the unfortunate rain that weekend, attendees were definitely still present in showing their support for the young artists. Many fellow students, acquaintances, and friends of the starring musicians came together for the close of the tiny but mighty festival. 

Concert Reviews Music

Giddy-up for country sensation Morgan Wallen’s electric Montreal performance

Morgan Wallen’s performance in Montreal on Saturday, Sept. 23 opened with Bailey Zimmerman and Ernest giving the fans a show to remember. 

Montreal’s Bell Centre came alive on Saturday night as Morgan Wallen took the stage to perform the 34th show of his 2023 One Night At A Time World Tour. Decked out in cowboy hats, boots, and flannel shirts, the electric crowd was in for a treat with opening acts Bailey Zimmerman and Ernest. Wallen, riding the high of his latest album, One Thing At A Time, made history with all 36 tracks simultaneously charting on Billboard’s Hot 100, surpassing Drake’s record. 

Bailey Zimmerman, the 23-year-old American singer and songwriter from Illinois was energetic and passionate as he bounced around the stage, high-fived fans on the floor, and flipped his hair back and forth. He sang his hit singles “Fall In Love” and “Rock and A Hard Place” and ended his performance referencing bible verse Mark 9:23: “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” 

“If you take anything away from my show tonight, it’s that there’s gonna be people telling you what you’re doing is crazy, but if I didn’t follow my dreams, I would not be here in Montreal opening for the Morgan Wallen One Night At A Time tour!” he exclaimed enthusiastically.  

Up next was Ernest, American country music singer and songwriter who beamed on stage with his personalized leather guitar strap and his “Gallagher #11” Montreal Canadians jersey. He launched an “olé, olé olé” chant and the crowd went wild. He sang some of his songwriting marvels  “Did It With You,” “Son of a Sinner,” and “Somebody’s Problem”, the latter being a song he wrote for Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album in 2021.  

As he strummed the opening chords of his hit song “Flower Shops,” he revealed that this song “validated what [he] thought was true. Country music is still alive and well,” Ernest added.

The audience illuminated the Bell Centre with a sea of cellphone flashlights, swaying in harmony with the music. As the song drew to a close, Montreal Canadiens’ Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield made a surprise appearance, joining Ernest on stage to toss red roses into the crowd.  

As Ernest concluded his performance at 8:25 p.m., the anticipation in the air heightened. Wallen emerged from his dressing room strutting to his duet with Lil Durk “Broadway Girls” at 9:20 p.m. He sported a white long-sleeved shirt, beige jeans, and a green duck hat that matched his duck necklace. Wallen took centre stage atop a riser to kickstart the night with his crowd-pleaser, “Up Down”. Smoke bombs and fireworks sparked as he shouted, “What’s going on Montreal, how we doing tonight?!”  

He thanked the fans for their dedication and introduced his crew on stage with him—Mark “Taco” Annino on drums, Luke Cowboy Rice on bass and guitar, Tyler Tomlinson on guitar, Chris Gladden on keys, Tony Aichele on guitar and Dominic Frost on guitar and lead vocals.

Following “I Wrote The Book,” “One Thing At A Time,” and “Everything I Love” was “’98 Braves” with a story about his love for baseball. He shared that baseball taught him a lot about life and is the reason why he has persevered in the music industry and has created the Morgan Wallen Foundation. The Foundation’s goal is to support programs for youth in sports and music because Wallen believes that “all children deserve a chance to thrive, play, and create.” For every concert ticket sold, $3 goes to support the foundation’s work.  

His next songs were “You Proof,” “Ain’t That Some,” “Sunrise,” and “Cover Me Up”—one of the first songs he wrote. “This song gave me a lot of faith, hope, and encouragement that maybe I wasn’t crazy about moving away from home and being a country singer. Maybe I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. Thank you for letting me sing about stuff that means a lot to me,” Wallen said during his emotional speech.  

He then segued into “Chasing You” and “Thought You Should Know”, a touching tribute to his mother, accompanied by his guitarist Dominic. Wallen invited Zimmerman back on stage to perform a spirited rendition of “I Deserve A Drink”. The latter wore an Expos baseball jersey and bright red jeans. 

Ernest later re-joined Wallen to perform “Cowgirls” together. After returning from a brief break, Wallen emerged sporting a “#7 Wallen HABS” jersey, eliciting roars of excitement from the crowd. The highlight of the night was “Last Night,” which had become the year’s biggest country song across North America in all genres, marking a significant milestone for Wallen.  

His last song of the night was “Whiskey Glasses” and the concert concluded with fireworks, leaving fans thrilled with the experience. “That was officially one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to,” proclaimed Sam Tanner, a fourth-year JMSB student at Concordia. “I went with my mom, and it was definitely worth the money.” 

After the concert, fans flocked to merchandise stands and sang Wallen’s hit songs all the way to the Lucien-L’Allier metro station, concluding a memorable evening of country music in Montreal. 

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