Sold out shows won’t necessarily always have a crowded venue at the beginning of the night when there’s an opening act. Many will often substitute showing up early to the concert with staying a bit later at the bar to down another two or five pints. This time, however, at quarter to eight before the opener, Ken Yates, even hit the stage, the Corona Theatre was packed as fudge. Perhaps it was because the show-goers wanted to catch Yates’ performance, or simply ensure a solid seat or spot on the floor for Passenger’s performance, either way, their decision to show up early was wise.
Solo act Ken Yates, a singer/songwriter from London, Ontario, walked onto a dimly lit stage Monday night as purple spotlights beamed down on him and orange lights contoured the stage behind him with a fair level of cheers coming from the crowd, a level that would eventually rise throughout his set. His introduction was humble, giving the audience a little background description of himself before flowing into his set. The microphone levels started off low, but were quickly tended to and brought to a clear and crisp sound, a sound that his acoustic guitar complemented well. With his warming guitar and vocal tones, positive energy and personable crowd interaction, it would come with no surprise that Yates’ spectators are left feeling moved and inspired by his performances. Attending a Ken Yates performance, you may be lucky enough to hear some of the soothing folk sounds off of his 2017 album entitled Huntsville, including “Roll Me on Home,” “Keep Your Head Down,” and the title track “Huntsville,” not to bury the preceding full-length album Twenty-Three, however, which features a favourite of mine, “The One That Got Away.”
Man, Passenger has a lot of drive. The room erupted as Michael David Rosenberg of the solo act, Passenger, stepped out of the dark over to his microphone where he gave the sincerest of thank you’s to the audience for coming out to his show. The modesty strongly prevailed throughout his set, especially when he fucked up the first verse of his opening song “Fairytales and Firesides,” only to laugh it off and restart the song as the loyalty of his fans was evident through their supportive cheers. Rosenberg gleamed with happiness, inspiration and intimacy the entire time, making a sold out theatre feel like a private show. There were no crazy elaborate stage antics or wild light show; it was such a simple setup, but so empowering and heavenly as hell. His connection with the audience was beyond strong, telling stories of his personal life and inviting the crowd to participate in singing along, exclaiming “if you don’t know the words, make them up” during “Life’s for the Living.” Although he only had a guitar and the power of voice, along with the genius microphone on the foot trick that acted as a bass drum when stomping the stage, his fans accompanied him beautifully by clapping and singing his lyrics word for word, especially during “Hell or High Water,” “I Hate,” and “Let Her Go,” which he flowed into flawlessly after “Suzanne.” Passenger’s performance was so organic, almost as if he were improvising at times; so professional, but not at all serious, making jokes about how “Let Her Go” is his only famous song and telling stories about letting a 15 year old continue to believe that Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” was in fact his own original, a song that he performed a marvellous rendition of on Monday night. It was truly the most energetic and uplifting solo act performance that I have ever attended and maybe even seen. As he walked off stage after concluding with “Scare Away the Dark,” the crowd continued to chant the song until he came back on for an encore, closing the night with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” along with his own “Holes.”
Written by Keenan Kerr
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Danielle Kenedy