Palace + Janet May @ Bar Le Ritz – 8 February 2020

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Palace in Montreal

In a crowded and sold out Bar Le Ritz PDB, on a cold Saturday night, the 8th of February, a blonde figure appeared from the back, went on stage, worked her magic, and cast a spell on all the attendees: her name is Janet May, singer/songwriter from New York City and opening act for Palace.

While delicate violin notes were bewitching the air from a turntable inside an old suitcase, the charming voice of Janet melted with that of her dark red Gibson, thus building an incredible image per se, a beautiful contrast to her velvet long black dress and the surroundings. This incredible storyteller enchanted the crowd with an interesting (musically speaking) combination that supported lyrics committed to topics of worth.

“Music knows no boundaries”, said May and we trusted her, as she was performing while addressing issues about women, working-class life, prison. I was truly impressed by the power of her music statements and her commitments as an artist and activist supporting various causes, as I have later discovered through some interviews. Therefore, the perfect atmosphere was created for what was expected to be a great/interesting performance by the band from London, in town for their Life After tour. 

I have to say that, despite the long wait between both acts (almost an hour!), my expectations toward Palace were exceeded. First off, I want to share a line about the crowd: a truly committed fan base, ready to sing along all the band’s hits, screaming supporting and loving words, and I was honestly really glad to be a part of it.

So Long Forever, from their debut namesake album of 2016, arose from the silence in a nice crescendo, firing up the venue and already setting a high standard. From the very beginning, the harmonies they produced were so classy and at the same time captivating. On Berlin, frontman Leo Wyndham was touching his guitar’s strings as if they were a woman’s hair while laying his eyes singularly on their fans, bobbing on the sound waves.

It was on I Want What You Got that the crowd unleashed the power of their voices, chanting together with the band and creating a soft, heartfelt, caressing carpet of feelings, further sustaining the performance. Live Well followed Younger, igniting the air we were breathing. The mouth close to the mic, a face covered in sweat, closed eyes, a voice coming from that place in the heart where feelings are created, this band has the power to turn a public experience into something so private that it is quite hard to explain, you’ve got to live it.

However, what impressed me the most was the role played by the drums and bass within the overall execution. It could be compared to that of punctuation in the context of poetry: unexpected, sometimes apparently wrong, yet it is what gives true sense to a phrase, what confers rhythm to the composition. Likewise, while the guitars were playing their master parts, it was in their peculiar relationship with bass and drums that the band’s fascinating songs’ structure was developed.

Blackheath started as a soft ballad only to explode later, the heartfelt Face In The Crowd followed and then it was the beautiful Holy Smoke sung by everybody that created such an intense hiatus out of silence. All In My Stride, performed solo with a guitar, narrated its story through Leo’s voice and modulated notes, while Life After awakened the mood by spreading its energy on our ecstatic faces. It’s Over opened to the grand finale and gave once again the opportunity to the public to sing from the top of their lungs while running through Heaven Up There and Veins into the arms of Bitter, probably their most-known hit.

At the end of that night, Leo Wyndham, Matt Hodges, Rupert Turner, joined for the occasion by Harry Deacon, had demonstrated an unquestionable talent in playing at the border of ecstasy and melancholy while bringing to life enchanting harmonies and creating deeply-rooted atmospheres: enlightening. 

SETLIST:

  • So Long Forever
  • Berlin
  • I Want What You Got 
  • Younger
  • Live Well
  • Running Wild 
  • Blackheath
  • Face In The Crowd
  • Holy Smoke
  • No Other
  • All In My Stride
  • Life After
  • It’s Over
  • Heaven Up There
  • Veins
  • Bitter 

Review – Francesca Sacerdoti
Photos – Ryley Remedios

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