Dean Lewis @ Mtelus – 4th October 2019

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Dean Lewis in Montreal

I’ve been itching to see and hear Dean Lewis perform live for almost exactly one year: it was October 14, 2018, when I arrived at the Dean Lewis + Noah Kahan show at Café Campus and was informed he’d been replaced by a virtually unknown local act because he lost his voice. (If you want to know just how disappointed I was with his replacement, you can check out that review.) Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that, in just one year, this awesome Aussie ascended from opening act at Café Campus to headliner at MTelus; that’s an enviable career path for someone who released their debut album in March of this year, even if his first single, “Waves,” was certified platinum six times over back in 2016. 

MTelus is totally packed, so much so that, for the first time ever, I can’t make my way through the floor to the stairs leading up to the balcony at either side of the stage. There is even a group of people sitting in the secret bar, where there is typically no one, watching the concert on a screen.  I was just here for CHVRCHES and for The Strumbellas, who have both been in action far longer than Lewis, and it was not like this. This show is sold out, and everyone showed up, which is astonishing because Lewis has been to Montreal twice already this year – he headlined at the Corona Theatre in March and played Osheaga. Who are these dedicated fans? He has twelve million+ listeners on Spotify, and it seems most of them are young women, of the type to hold up signs and beg for a guitar pick. There are also couples, young and old, in the further rows, some of whom slow danced when ‘their song’ came on, and you always have the music junkies – those of us who are into anything and everything. Lewis’s sound isn’t hard to love. (I’ve been listening to “Be Alright” on repeat ever since the show, and it’s so addictive, I had to find a non-explicit version to include in my teen yoga playlist.)

Lewis comes out to huge applause, and when, three songs in, he addressed the audience, it was to give Montreal the honour of “best show of his life” the last time he was here, and to announce that even though he has a sore throat, he and his band are going to give it all they’ve got. The audience eats it up and rewards him with their full attention, singing every lyric, and surely coming out to see Lewis as often as he chooses to pop in. The show was incredibly energetic from start to finish. 

Lewis’s vibe is less the professional singer-songwriter and more the boy-next-door, playing you a song on his guitar while you quickly fall deeply in love with them, but two things prove the professionalism: his song-writing style itself, hitting the perfect mark of personal and catchy, and his vocal range. At times I ask myself if he’s gone sharp, but it’s more that he has gone… unexpected. “Chemical” and “Lose My Mind” make those two points clearer than I can by going further here. What I’m saying is, if you got this far in the review, and you still aren’t listening to Dean Lewis, go do that now. He writes the kind of songs you love to sing along to, and tonight, even though I imagine I can hear his voice straining sometimes, it’s still incredible.

The crowd goes absolutely nuts for my personal (post-show) favourite, “Be Alright.” I wasn’t immediately hooked because the audience sang more of the song than Lewis did, but I understand why, after playing it many, many times, and memorizing the lyrics. However, the audience doesn’t quite have the melody right, and that is one of the hooks that Lewis has. He hits notes that almost sound wrong, or sharp, but they are in fact right, just uncommon, and the straining and pushing of his voice to new heights and angles might be his signature. 

After only fourteen songs, Lewis leaves the stage and then comes back for the encore with a rocking rendition of “Straight Back Down” – he promised to rock and his energy stayed up through the whole show. On his last song, predictably “Waves,” I thought maybe his voice was giving out, but par for the night – the crowd fills in the spaces. Not having known any of the lyrics prior to the show, I feel a little left out. Advice to future concert-goers/people who have podcast addictions and thus don’t necessarily listen to the artist they’re reviewing ad nauseum prior to the show… actually, it’s okay. You can play it as much as you want after the show. You can blast it in your car all week long.  

Lewis’s Australian surf sound panders to young lovers, and to emotional sponges like me. (If I admit to being a hopeless romantic, am I betraying Lizzo?) It seems like Dean Lewis lives an incredibly passionate life, with songs taking you on a poignant journey of love, loss, betrayal – perfect for his demographic. 

SET LIST

  • 1. Hold Of Me
  • 2. Need You Now
  • 3. A Place We Knew
  • 4. Stay Awake
  • 5. Chemical
  • 6. Lose My Mind
  • 7. Half A Man
  • 8. Time To Go
  • 9. Don’t Hold Me
  • 10. Let Go
  • 11. Be Alright
  • 12. 7 Minutes 
  • 13. When You Were Young (The Killers cover)
  • 14. For the Last Time

ENCORE

  • 15. Straight Back Down
  • 16. Waves 

Review – Carrie-Ann Kloda
Photos – Ryley Remedios

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