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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.

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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.

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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.

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Music

Briston Maroney charmed the crowd at Montreal’s Club Soda

Briston Maroney energizes Montreal on his Ultrapure tour with Phoebe Go as the ideal opener.

On Feb. 5, Montrealers welcomed Briston Maroney to Club Soda, a talented musical artist from Tennessee, known for his introspective songwriting. He and Australian singer-songwriter Phoebe Go captivated the audience in Montreal during the North American tour for Maroney’s newest album, Ultrapure, released in September 2023. 

Prior to this release, the Tennessee-born musician established himself by releasing 4 EP’s, his debut album, Sunflower, which followed his time as semi-finalist on season 13 of American Idol. Maroney’s dynamic stage presence in Montreal drew the crowd in through an authentic delivery of his alternative indie-rock songs. Opener Phoebe Go effortlessly created a warm atmosphere from the very beginning with her soft indie pop/rock style, setting the stage for an exciting evening. 

Phoebe Go performed as a solo act. Her guitar and voice filled the venue with sweet yet melancholic lyrics, accompanied by the subtle strums of her guitar. Despite the absence of a live band to support her, she performed with a backing track to compensate for her rhythm section, making the most of the intimate setting at Club Soda for her first performance in Montreal. After the second song, the artist said she was amazed by how attentive the members of the crowd were, calling them “good listeners.” 

She played songs such as “7Up,” released a week prior to her performance in Montreal, as well as her most popular release “We Don’t Talk.” Her calming stage presence, mirrored by the focused audience, created a peaceful atmosphere, leading up to the moment Maroney and his band members took over the stage. 

Maroney’s stage was set up and decorated in a unique manner, consisting of props with various animals like a jellyfish, cat, octopus, all with wiggly eyes. This unconventional decoration immediately set Maroney apart from the traditional fixtures of most performers: a standard backdrop featuring the artist’s name. 

From the opening song “Body,” Maroney’s charisma shone and energized the crowd, which sang along to every lyric. The artist played a mix of his popular tracks, including his most popular song “Freakin’ Out on the Interstate,” as well as slower songs where he performed alone with his acoustic guitar like “June.” The concert felt like a two-for-one special with the high-energy of a rock show, while also delivering an intimate atmosphere of a slow acoustic set. His versatility as a songwriter was demonstrated through the show, and his released tracks, by his ability to draw inspiration from a range of music influences, from folk artists like John Prine to classic rock/pop artists such as Bruce Springsteen.

Maroney and his band members did not let a single moment go to waste. Throughout the set, he engaged with the audience and seamlessly transitioned between songs with different types of interludes, i.e. people talking, sounds from various places, or even musical interludes by the band. These breaks added depth to the show while also ensuring that the crowd never lost interest.

The fans in the crowd were ecstatic—brief pauses were often filled with screams from enthusiastic fans. Maroney couldn’t help but stop halfway through his performance of “Rose,” due to a fan’s comment sparking his laughter. His engagement with the audience and his evident admiration for his band, which was expressed to the crowd several times and shown by the band’s chemistry, made the night a very memorable experience.

They concluded the show with a two-song encore, ending with the title track of the album “Ultrapure” and bringing their Montreal show to a close. With their infectious, yet somewhat contrasting, energies, Maroney and Phoebe Go formed a great pair. I would not be shocked to see Phoebe Go return to Montreal with a full band in the near future, or to see Maroney come back with, hopefully, another album tour.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Concert Reviews Festival Review Music

KAYTRAMINÉ extends the Summer with a heated Performance at OfF Piknic 

The high-energy rapper-producer duo composed of Aminé and KAYTRANADA kicked off their joint tour in Montreal on September 7.

On Sept. 7, famed producer KAYTRANADA and Aminé—known together as KAYTRAMINÉ—kicked off their sold-out joint tour for their album of the same name in KAYTRANADA’s hometown of Montreal. The performance was held in open air at Parc Jean-Drapeau as part of OfF Piknic, a series of concerts that follows the summer-long Piknic Électronik festival. The duo played joint and then individual sets for a crowd of 8,000 people, cycling through the entirety of their collaborative album as well as songs from their respective solo catalogues.

The show included three openers. Montreal hip-hop trio Planet Giza kicked things off with a DJ set consisting mostly of vintage hip-hop, with Aminé’s tour DJ Madison LST following up with a mix of current hip-hop hits such as Ice Spice’s “Deli” and Sexyy Red’s “SkeeYee,” which lit up the crowd. Lou Phelps’ set was the perfect tone-setter for KAYTRAMINÉ: his style is a perfect blend of laid-back, chill hip-hop akin to Aminé and occasional smooth bouncy production courtesy of KAYTRANADA himself—who happens to be Lou Phelps’ blood brother. 

Just off their first track “Who He Iz?,” it became immediately clear that KAYTRAMINÉ is a captivating duo. Aminé’s rapping style is filled with confidence and conviction, and his occasional shouting of his punchlines makes boastful lines like “we make heat shit, y’all make weak shit” resonate even stronger with the crowd. KAYTRANADA matched the Portland rapper’s energy with ease, bouncing along behind the ones and twos and ad-libbing in between Aminé’s lines. 

The duo not only fed off each other, but also the crowd: Aminé’s frequent use of call-and-response had the audience namely chanting the hooks of “letstalkaboutit,” “UGH UGH” and “Master P”  back to him, as well as getting hands to bounce and people to jump throughout the crowd. Chiara Strollo, a second-year TESL student who was in attendance, commends the duo for their lively and inviting stage presence: “I love when an artist makes you feel like their friend and like you’re all there to have a good time together.”

After a brief break, Aminé would re-emerge and start performing other hits from his catalogue. He performed cuts from his 2022 and 2020 projects TWOPOINTFIVE and Limbo like “Charmander” and “Shimmy,” even going as far back as his 2017 debut album to perform “Spice Girl.” The chorus to his 2018 hit “REEL IT IN” spread through the crowd like wildfire after being suddenly dropped and the slow-burning live version of “Caroline”—his biggest solo hit—proved effective. Fans sang along before the drums finally kicked in, releasing the crowd’s bubbling hype into jumps.

KAYTRANADA followed suit with an infectious DJ set that no concertgoer could resist dancing along to. His medley of songs included his remixes of Sam Gellaitry’s “Assumptions” and Teedra Moses’ “Be Your Girl,” “LITE SPOTS,” and a yet-unreleased remix of Beyoncé’s “CUFF IT.” 

Aminé joined him once again to perform their 2015 collaboration “LA DANSE,” after giving a shout out to the Montreal producer for reaching out and gifting him with free beats during that period. The pair closed the show with some of the biggest hits on KAYTRAMINÉ such as “Rebuke” and “Sossaup,” with the Pharrell Williams-assisted lead single “4EVA” rounding out the entire performance.

Before the crowd could fully spill out amid chants of “olé olé olé,” the swarm of fans that had begun leaving ran back towards the stage as the lights dimmed down again and KAYTRANADA’s hit single “Intimidated” began playing. Fans were treated to an encore and a second serving of “4EVA,” which upped the energy and wrapped up the show on an even more lively note. 

With both artists toting the flag of their respective ethnic background (Ethiopia and Haiti), the show truly felt like a celebration commemorating their heritage, their joining of forces and the pride KAYTRANADA has brought to his home city.

Parc Jean-Drapeau proved to be an ideal venue as the outdoor area perfectly complemented the bright, bouncy and summery instrumentals on their album. Given the club-ready and danceable qualities of KAYTRANADA’s production, the space augmented the party concept to a larger extent. With volleyball courts, ping-pong tables and an entire area dedicated to food and drink trucks and merchandise, the site entertained, served, and accommodated the crowd with ease, while also leaving enough room to keep everything spread out. “It wasn’t too crowded and the overall vibe of the people was great,” Strollo explains.

KAYTRAMINÉ showed and received overwhelming love to and from the people of Montreal, successfully starting off their tour with a bang. Attendee and fourth-year human relations student Alfred Umasao describes the abundance of local artists as “Seeing Montreal artists do what they do best.” Umasao has no regrets from attending the show: “I got my money’s worth for sure.”

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Concert Reviews Music

Concert Review: The retro-futuristic band Automatic comes back to Montreal with their second album Excess

 Automatic: fighting capitalism through looped synths 

Automatic performed on Oct. 19 at Les Foufounes Éléctriques, and the show was everything their devout fans were expecting. The trio is composed of Izzy Glaudini, lead vocalist and synth player, Halle Saxon for bass and vocals, and Lola Dompé for drums and vocals. 

“We started in Los Angeles, and we’re all big music fans, we weren’t really close friends, but we all thought we were cool. The best way to start a band is to meet cool people, so that’s what we did,” Glaudini told The Concordian

Automatic’s genre skims between retro and techno-pop, sometimes touching upon apocalyptic futuristic sounds thanks to the lead’s synth. Their lyrics and music videos satirize our current society, with the irony of standing by while capitalism breaks everything as the climate crisis ravages on. 

Post-punk Montreal band La Sécurité opened for them. La Sécurité offered a similar genre in sound and in style. Both bands had taken care to form a retro aesthetic with neat sunglasses, pastel-coloured clothes, and a general irreproachable sense of icon. 

Automatic seemed very focused with their instruments, looking up rarely, moving their bodies only slowly when it resonated naturally with the rhythm, not forcibly. They seemed almost aloof to the crowd in front of them, focused entirely on the music they were playing. 

Automatic sequentially had an even pace all throughout their performance. They wanted the audience to perceive the style they had meticulously chosen. They captured the room’s attention with their futuristic keyboard, vocals, and synth sounds. The bass carried most of the songs.

“We have a minimal style. We’ve never had any guitars, we wanted to make it sound different to a lot of the bands that are going around.” Glaudini noted the importance of having the audience’s attention lead to the sound of the bassist. 

When the show was done, the crowd echoed in applause. Instead of retreating backstage, the trio decided to instead join the crowd amongst their friends. This was both funny and humbling. On stage, musicians are often retracted from their humanity, seen as idol-like figures. Their stepping down from the stage at the end of the show almost shyly universalized us as all human and capable of commonality. 

La Sécurité and Automatic’s music is available on BandCamp.

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Concert Reviews Music

Concert Review: The Paper Kites at Théâtre Fairmount

The Australian folk group banded with the Hudson native to create an intimate night for their Montreal fans

Matt Holubowski opened the show with nothing but reverb and delay on his guitar. The Hudson native lulled the crowd with his Rufus Wainwright-esque voice over the flowing hammer-ons and pull-offs that echoed. It was his unique way of playing finger-style. 

After the first two songs “St. Clarity” and “Revelator Eyes”, he chatted with the crowd and engaged in banter with a few folks which is always appreciated by the fans. The last thing anyone wants is a Whitney Houston situation where the artist comes up on stage, sings their set without interacting with the crowd and leaves. 

Holubowski ended his setlist with “Exhale/Inhale,” which involved using the shimmer effect on his guitar which makes the reverb “shimmer.” It was a wonderful way to end the set, and it felt like the audience was underwater. 

The Paper Kites opened after a 20-minute intermission with their song “St Clarity.” Fifteen seconds into the song, a girl near me fainted and they took her to safety. The crowd was waiting with bated breath as they wondered what the next song would be: it was “Revelator Eyes.” Guitarist David Powys really liked using a David Gilmour tone, probably using a big muff pedal to boot. 

After three songs they thanked their fans for coming in to see them and went on to play “Climb On Your Tears” which prompted a lot of couples to slow dance; it was a nice atmosphere indeed. 

The singer Sam Bently recounted a story about playing in a pub called The Roadhouse in a small Australian town where no one knew who they were. They played an unreleased song out of the album that they wrote called “Green Valleys.”

Halfway through the set, the singers Bentley and Cristina Lacy sang a duo of “For All You Give.” My favourite song out of the setlist was “Bloom.” To be fair, it is their most popular song; unfortunately, the singer couldn’t sing it in the original key because it was an old release so they had to change the key. 

For the next song, “By My Side,” they asked the crowd to sing the chorus with them, and sing they did. Voices filled every crevice of the Fairmount Theatre, and probably all the way down to the marché PA downstairs. The eruption of clapping and whooping probably scared the employees. 

They ended their main set with “Electric Indigo” and the crowd immediately started to chant the encore song (Olé Olé). 

Their encore setlist, comprised of “Featherstone,” “A Gathering on 57th,” and finally “Give Me Your Fire, Give Me Your Rain.” The latter was easily the loudest song in the entire setlist with that intro guitar strum. Sure enough, the song also ended in a long-ending finale with a roar from the crowd. This concert made me feel different towards the end, because I’m usually riled up when I get out of a show, but The Paper Kites were too intimate and soft for that. If they are ever in town again I highly recommend you check them out.   

Photo by Saro Hartounian

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