I had been looking forward to this show since its announcement way back in March, when I saw that Ruby Waters was opening. I had a small teaser from her guest appearance last November at Classified’s show, as it so happens, also at Théâtre Corona. Given that her website consists entirely of a measly link to one song, and her Spotify only has three songs, I was excited to see what her set would be like.
Performing solo without a band, you might say the stage seemed almost too big for Ruby Waters, but you’d be wrong. There might not be a fancy light show or bandmates doing crazy stunts with their instruments, but Ruby didn’t need any of that; she had the entire floor entranced with her soulful music alone. One perk about also being given a photo pass is that you get a unique vantage point of seeing the crowd from almost the same perspective as the artist on stage, while at the same time getting to see the artist’s reaction to the crowd. On the one side, I could hear a group of girls screaming their hearts out, and on the other side, I just see Ruby with the biggest smile on her face, almost giggling between verses. She kept it professional though and didn’t skip a beat, treating us to a powerful vocal range of sincere raw emotion in every note. The set was quite short of just under a half-hour, but we were treated to just enough songs to keep us wanting more, including both unreleased songs, as well as “Supernatural,” her latest single “Last Cigarette,” and closing with her most well known song “Sweet Sublime.” Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of Ruby in the not too distant future here in Montreal, but if you can’t wait she’ll be touring the USA with City and Colour in October. Take a short trip to New York, you won’t be disappointed.
Truth be told, as a photographer my plan was to cover the first three songs from Ocean Alley and bolt. I was already pulling double duty covering the Montreal Folk Festival for the whole weekend (stay tuned for that review in the coming days!) and I didn’t want to over-extend myself. Well, life happens and our writer who was supposed to be reviewing this show had a last-minute emergency preventing him from attending. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise for me because this was one hell of a fantastic show!
From the moment the lights were dimmed and “Boys Are Back In Town” (by Thin Lizzy) started playing on the speakers, the crowd went wild. Seriously. Just look at the photos. Frontman Baden Donegal’s face coming onto the stage is that of pure love. He didn’t even have to say a single word to have the entire venue swooning over him. It was at this moment I knew I couldn’t just leave after my work was done and decided this show deserved the full review treatment.
Ocean Alley kicked things off with “The Comedown” from their album Chiaroscuro, and continued along with a mix of new singles like “Stained Glass” and older material from the album Lost Tropics. You’d think there would be ups and downs in the crowd’s level of excitement, but nope—pure unfiltered euphoric bliss, consistent throughout the entire set. It’s not often I see people in the upper balcony get up and dance, and probably the first time I’ve seen people literally dance their way to the bar, dance while ordering a drink, and dance their way back to their seat. A true testament to the band’s ability to connect with their audience. I think the only time things slowed down a bit was for “Happy Sad” when the crowd paired up and slow danced as couples or groups of friends.
As Ocean Alley finished “Happy Sad” they said the usual thank-yous and goodbyes but wait… what? Did they really just end their set without playing what is arguably their most well-known song? Hell no! We got to hear “Confidence” live in not just one encore song, but a total of three more songs before the show came to an end.
During the set I noticed Angus Goodwin quickly switch his guitar mid-song, suggesting possibly some technical problem, but it didn’t affect the performance, and if I hadn’t caught those few seconds by chance, I’d be none the wiser. This band was a true pleasure to listen to and I’m quite happy I stayed the entire set.
Written and Photographed by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Chris Aitkens