Review: Whitehorse @ Burton Cummings Theatre
I’ve been in Bermuda for the past 10 days and it was enchanting. I’ve been there numerous times. Actually, I once lived there, but that was another life.
During the day, Bermuda is most definitely paradise; the teal water, pink sand beaches and palm trees swaying in the breeze make it so. During the day, I long to live there again; it’s breathtakingly Bermudaful.
The nights in Bermuda however, remind me I’m perfectly happy in Winnipeg. There’s no shortage of DJ’s and alcohol – both of which I have no interest in. There is a shortage of concerts though – of which I’m VERY interested in. In the almost 10 years that I lived there, I think there was one big concert and that was Lionel Richie.
I don’t want to sound like I’m dumping on Bermuda. It’s where I learned to play the drums and I made dear friends and family there; it’ll always be my second home and I’m totally grateful I had the opportunity to live there. But concert-wise, it didn’t do much for me and when I moved back to Winnipeg, I was literally starving for live music. In a sense, I birthed this blog because of Bermuda.
So while Bermuda may be paradise, it’s not Winnipeg. It doesn’t have the local, national and international talent that feed my soul.
It doesn’t have Whitehorse at The Burt…
I ended up at Whitehorse because one of my friends recommended I see them. As usual, I did no research on the band or their sound beforehand, because I live for the surprise and sheer joy of hearing and seeing something amazing for the first time. I love walking into The Burt completely unaware of what’s going to happen.
Terra Lightfoot opened the show. I’ve seen her a few times, so I know more or less what to expect. I know Terra and her band will play mid-temp songs which won’t reach me on any intense or emotional level. But I know I won’t mind sitting there, watching her; I know she’ll put on a good show.
I recognized the first song, but I can’t tell you what it was because I was too busy staring at and lovingly caressing my very first WINNIPEG FOLK FEST MEDIA PASS LANYARD (and yes, it does need to be in caps – it was a BIG moment for me).
“No Hurry” snapped me out of my excited and slightly freaked out haze and reminded me that I’d better start writing some notes.
This was Terra’s first show opening for Whitehorse and she was promoting her new album “New Mistakes” which comes out on Saturday. She played her new single (“Paradise”) and then the band left the stage.
One of the reasons why I like The Burt, is because it’s a “controlled environment”. I once saw Terra open for Blue Rodeo at Bell MTS Place which is a huge venue full of distracting people. Then again at Interstellar, which is also very distracting with all the nature, etc. The Burt is just the right size to showcase those with talent. There’s usually nothing distracting for me there and I can really concentrate on the performances.
Tonight, in this controlled environment, I discovered Terra’s voice. She stood on stage with an acoustic guitar “glued together” by a woman from Waterloo (?) and sang “You Get High” and her voice reached wonderful levels that gave me goose bumps. It was really lovely.
“Norma Gale” was next and I was disappointed she used some sort of electrical device with a canned drum beat in it when she had a perfectly good drummer standing off stage. However, in the middle of the song, the band came back on stage and once they started playing, the whole song opened up and became incredibly full. It was a cool effect.
Terra’s higher notes and vocal runs in “Hold You” also gave me goose bumps and she was rewarded with a partial standing ovation at the end of her set.
(Note: I heard that Whitehorse usually performs as a duo. Tonight they played with a full band and since I have no prior experience with them as a duo, I have nothing to compare this performance to. Please keep that in mind as you read the review. Thanks!)
Husband and wife duo, Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland walked on stage arm in arm and the crowd clapped to the beat. The lights went up to reveal Luke in an all white outfit (looking a bit like Beck) and Melissa in a royal blue mini skirt dress with matching cape and white go-go boots. “Baby What’s Wrong” started the show and I was instantly intrigued.
This was the first night of their Canadian tour promoting their new album “Panther In The Dollhouse”. I’m not sure what it was, but I had trouble looking away from the stage during “Nighthawks”.
“Sweet Disaster” was dark and sexy, “Boys Like You” was very cool, and “Achilles’ Desire” showcased Melissa’s fantastically rich voice. The band was weaving such atmosphere with each note and I was loving every second.
Luke talked a bit about Sunshine House and his desire to raise awareness and funds for this resource centre (https://sunshinehousewpg.org/)
Then the band left and Luke & Melissa sang “Epitaph In Tongues” while sharing one mic. Again, Melissa’s voice was fantastic. They were so mesmerizing together, I rarely looked away to write notes.
The band came back on stage and the show picked up pace. “Kicking Down Your Door” was written when Trump was threatening to build a wall and Syrian refugees were pouring into Canada. Given the nature of the content, it was a surprisingly upbeat tune.
I enjoyed the rockin’ “Evangelina” and then Luke spoke about playing at the Bella Vista when he was younger. An interesting version of Chuck Berry’s “Nadine” came out of that banter, Luke introduced it with “Chuck Berry would have hated it, but I hope you like it”. I did like it, very much.
Luke and Melissa mentioned their Thanksgiving was spent touring The States, eating fish tacos behind a Holiday Inn. They commented on how happy they were to be back in Canada and then concluded their set with “The Walls Have Drunken Ears”. They introduced their band and received a standing ovation.
Everyone came back for the encore and Luke and Melissa introduced their whole crew (which, in my experience, is a bit abnormal, but very cool) and then they asked the audience to not pound on the side of the bus on our way out because their three year old was sleeping in there. Awww!
Then Luke introduced “Tame As The Wild Ones” by telling the audience that he heard Melissa sing it and then their son was born nine months later.
Last month Whitehorse helped induct Neil Young into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame. They performed a great rendition of “Ohio” and decided to include it in their setlist.
Then the bass player motioned for everyone to get up and they closed the show with “Downtown”.
I really enjoyed this show. I thought Luke and Melissa were a superb duo and I liked the band. I’d definitely see them again.
I will say, however, that the crowd felt weird. Everyone sat perfectly still except one guy who was dancing by himself to the right of the stage. Other than that, it looked like someone had filled The Burt with cardboard cut outs of an audience.
Maybe it’s just me, but it felt like this music and this show was supposed to move people. It felt like the floor should have been full of swaying/dancing people. But this audience…I don’t know what was going on. It felt like they were waiting for their favourite song, but the band never played it. Is that the case?
Maybe they were older and perfectly happy in their seats? Maybe it’s because it’s a Wednesday night? Was it the addition of the band? Were they taking this performance for granted? I have no idea. But it felt weird.
I bet Bermudians would have moved to this show…(wink)
Ah, Winnipeg…it’s good to be home…(insert hugging and heart emoticons here)
P.S. Thanks again to Winnipeg Folk Festival for the media pass!
TicketMOMster is a Rock and Jazz-loving Mom; single-handedly keeping Ticketmaster alive in Winnipeg. Follow her musical journey here: www.facebook.com/TicketMOMs