The Barr Brothers + Bahamas @ Montreal Metropolis – 6th November 2014

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It’s probably fair to say that even The Barr Brothers themselves felt a little ambitious headlining the 2300-capacity Metropolis in their home town. The quartet, who just released second album Sleeping Operator, have been building a steady following over the past 3 or 4 years, including a headline set at The Montreal Jazz Festival, but filling Montreal’s iconic venue might still be considered a risk. Tonight though, a sold out venue and an enthusiastic crowd proves it was a risk worth taking and solidifies The Barr Brothers’ position as one of Canada’s fastest-rising new bands.

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Opening tonight’s show, Toronto’s Bahamas gets things off to a great start. Having previously worked with such musicians as Feist and Jack Johnson, Afie Jurvanen’s instantly likeable songs go down well with the appreciative crowd. Lost In The Light’s gentle groove is a highlight and, by the time he says goodbye, he’s won over a whole new batch of fans, some of whom make their way to the merch stand to pick up a vinyl copy of new album, Bahamas Is Afie.

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As the lights slowly fade and the roar of tonight’s expectant audience grows louder, brothers Brad and Andrew Barr, harpist Sarah Page, and multi-instrumentalist Andres Vial, plus a few extra musicians drafted in to round out their sound, begin to fill the stage before easing into the gently plucked intro, Static Orphans, from their latest album. This quickly saunters into Love Ain’t Enough, a soaring song that feels like it draws you in as it builds before the logical progression into the restrained melody and gentle embrace of Wolves.

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A big chunk of tonight’s show sees the band keep the vibe laid-back and subdued, though all the while with plenty of soul, picking things up occasionally with likes of the grungy, metallic bass of Half Crazy, which gets a heroes welcome. It’s these more-electric songs which fare best tonight in fact, maybe due to the size of the venue. The mellower moments struggle to reach the back of the room, which is annoyingly full of chatter for much of their set. Indeed, during new song How The Heroine Dies, people shush those around them as they attempt to hear the gentle vocals over the smalltalk.

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Things pick up again slightly with Even the Darkness Has Arms, Brad singing “Even the darkness has arms, but they ain’t got you and baby I have it, and I have you too” over a brisk, rootsy acoustic refrain. For the most-part, The Barr Brothers’ sound depends heavily on Page’s angelic harp and some unusual instruments which bring new textures to their music. The horn section fits well, introducing Let There Be Horses with a short rendition of Abide With Me. Sat around a camp fire, this is the perfect soundtrack. In a venue like Metropolis however, it sometimes feels like their are lulls in the set where the energy dissipates too much and we’re awaiting the next big song.

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Luckily, one of those moments brings the main set to a close as Lord, I Just Can’t Keep From Crying brings that bluesy southern rock back to the fore and the crowd gets its collective foot stomping. Tonight probably needed a few more songs like this one.

“I didn’t want to tell you but I lost my voice the other day”, Brad tells the crowd, “but you didn’t seem to care!”. Any vocal restrictions seem to have gone unnoticed, and the fans make it clear they think he’s doing just fine. A final encore of England and the understated Cloud bring things nicely to a close and The Barr Brothers can pat themselves on the back for a homecoming show which showcased their diverse catalogue and musical abilities beautifully.

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Review & photos – Steve Gerrard

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