Making her first return to Montreal since playing the Osheaga music festival this past summer, Tash Sultana filled up the Place Bell amphitheatre on her Flow State Tour. With support from fellow Aussies Ocean Alley, the show was surprisingly intimate considering the size of the venue. The solo artist’s career has snowballed quickly, as evidenced by the huge crowd of hip young youths who packed the newest venue in Laval. Lots of buzz, lots of people buzzed; positive vibes filled the room and gave everyone some warmth on such an icy Canadian night.
By the time the opening act, Ocean Alley, stepped up, they were playing to a sold-out crowd. It seemed that everyone had gotten to the show on time. With a warm mix of reggae, dub, indie, and surf, Ocean Alley delivered a clean-cut show, with clean tones and vibes similar to Sultana’s signature looping tunes. It was a great fit for the slot, and even better to see fellow countrymen touring together. Ocean Alley’s sound as a six-man band was very dialed-in. This band has clearly been on the road many times before. Their sound is like that of the music you’d hear in an Apple product commercial. There was an inherent lack of teeth with the sound, however, and it didn’t seem like much had sunk into the crowd. The tunes still flowed tightly and lightly and made for a good start to the night.
Following these six dudes was one dudette. Tash Sultana stood solo on stage, surrounded by her looping station that included some drum machines, pedals, keys, guitars, a trumpet, and a few funky decorations for feng shui. Wild applause poured out from the crowd to welcome the Aussie artist. It might have helped that she was sporting a Canadian style hockey jersey.
Sultana’s vision and musical prowess cannot be denied. To stand in front of a stadium full of people with nothing but her creation, her vessel, is insane. Seeing a loop-oriented performance live could sometimes slip into tediousness, but this show was so tastefully arranged it seemed very authentic and heartfelt. The crowd easily appreciated that.
The flowing state of Sultana’s contemporary reggae music was perfect for Place Bell. You could kick back in the ridiculously comfortable seats and let yourself float on through the tunes. With the release of her latest album Flow State just around the last corner, fans were excited to hear some fresh songs. To see these tracks build step by step into their fully-formed versions was extremely cool. The coordination required to run such a machine seems like it might be overwhelming, but Sultana pulled it off while still maintaining a smooth swagger. She also demonstrated her multi-instrumental talents, notably to shred some mighty trumpet. Damn, did that shake up the place! Everything about this artist was for real. She showed some love to the crowd and made sure racists and homophobes were put in their place. This was a temple of love.
During her two-hour set, Sultana pulled all the stops. Nearing the end she dropped her most popular track, “Jungle” which had the crowd up on their feet and holding their loved ones. After a warm applause, she returned for a solid fifteen-minute encore that started up with a long improvisation on a twelve string acoustic. Take away all the pedals and loops and technological magic, and you’re still left with one person and their beautiful musical touch. An arena has never seemed so small and intimate, and a cold Canadian night has never felt so warm.
Written by Ben Cornel
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Kate Erickson