Allan Rayman is one of the greatest Canadian talents right now. His genre is hard to pinpoint, ranging at times from hip hop to an almost country sound. Despite being based in Toronto, he is actually from Lost Springs, Wyoming, where he likely gets some of the country influence. He has released two albums and an EP. His songs have complex characters and plots that weave in and out throughout the album. Every song features a guitar and a drum beat accompanying his unique vocals, which have an unpolished roughness to them. I was excited to see him live.
The show opened with Le Mariachi Oro Blanco, a mariachi band from Montreal. They came out to play on the balcony at Theatre Corona, which was very cool and perfect for a mariachi performance. For this show, there were three people performing, completely acoustically. They played the guitar, guitarrón, and the violin. They played classic mariachi songs, such as La Cucaracha and La Bamba. Unfortunately, because the instruments were so quiet and the crowd was loud, it was hard to hear the rest of their performance. I was ready for the main event.
Allan Rayman kept the crowd waiting to the point they were cheering, “Allan! Allan!”, trying to bring him on stage. When he finally came out, he entered with a bang. He came out wobbling and staggering, like he had too much to drink. He started with the hit single from his debut “Tennessee.” The lighting was dark with a spotlight only on him, which is very much in tune with the type of music he plays and the moods of his albums. He next went into “Graceland,” which is one of my favorite songs from his album Hotel Allan.
Next, Allan played a few songs with his most recent release, an EP called Courtney. The opening track “Gun” has a hard rock guitar part, which is almost Black Sabbath-esque. He followed it with “Word of Mouth” and “Hang Tight.” They were definitely two of my favorite songs of the night. The quieter instrumental and blues-y feel of these songs really emphasized his talent as an R&B singer, his raspy voice taking center stage.
He is a private guy. He maintains this on stage, often putting his arm up to cover his face during slow songs, but he also gets really into the music, dancing to the point of knocking the mic stand over. After, he replaced a guy’s beer that had been knocked over by the mic stand. He continued with “Barry Moves,” a slower song with an intense bass beat, following that with “Lucy the Tease.”
He finally got to his most recent album Roadhouse 01, which was released in February of this year. He played “Head Over Heels,” complete with the reference to the enigma of James Dean, who is someone I can definitely relate Allan Rayman to. He then then slowed it down with “Sweetheart” and “Repeat,” which was performed on the album with fellow Torontonian Jessie Reyez, who recently released her fabulous debut. “25.22” was one of my favorite songs off of this album and it didn’t disappoint live.
He performed two versions of his song “13.” First, he performed a stripped-down version with just the guitar, followed by the full version. It is one of his more intense songs, so it was interesting to hear it stripped down. It became a song sang in sadness, not anger as it sounds in the full version. Allan closed with “God Is A Woman,” which is slower. It closes out Roadhouse 01 and just like it finishes that album on a more positive note, it was a really great way to end the night.
Allan Rayman is one of the most talented songwriters today. His albums are conceptual, telling the stories of many distinct characters. For every answer he gives in a song, he adds another mystery. He is a unique performer, switching from an energetic and crazy performance to someone who is hiding behind his arm or covering his face. Allan Rayman is an enigma, and in an age where so many artists share everything about themselves on the internet, it’s refreshing to have some mystery.
Review – Rhodes Ford
Photos – Ashley MacPhee