Say Hi – Living Room Show – 5th October 2018

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say hi living room montreal
I have been to hundreds of shows in my life, and it’s easy to think you’ve seen everything at this point. Massive props to Say Hi, the performing moniker of Seattle native Eric Elbogen, and the folks at Undertow Records, then, for the idea of a Living Room Tour. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a tour of people’s living rooms. There are intimate concert venues like Casa Del Popolo, and then there are living rooms. Each show on Say Hi’s tour is therefore capped at around 40 people, and it’s been rolling across North America for the past few weeks. Finally, tonight, it rolls into Montreal. I last saw Say Hi way back in 2011 at Casa Del Popolo at the height of my obsession with his 7th record, the perfect Um, Uh Oh, and now 7 years later, after a hiatus, he’s back, in support of his 12th record, Caterpillar Centipede. Needless to say, I absolutely cannot wait.

Upon arrival at Raeanne’s place (thanks to her for volunteering her space, by the way!), it feels almost like a group of people hanging out for a movie night or a Superbowl party; people sat on cushions on the floor, a few on couches, and a few 6-packs of beer around the place. After greeting most people on the way in, Eric then takes to the space at the end of the living room with just his acoustic guitar, no mic or anything, and introduces himself: “Hi, my name is Eric, the band is Say Hi, thank you for being here.”

The show kicks off with Green With Envy from the new Caterpillar Centipede record, and immediately sets the tone for the show. Eric’s voice is both fragile and commanding at the same time, over the backdrop of a chord progression that reminds a lot of Teenage Kicks by The Undertones, and he winces as he wails “I shoulda been a better lover to you!” The delicate strum of new song Sweaters follows right after.

After this, Eric explains the vibe for the show, “basically winging it every night, and taking requests” from now until the end of the set! Requests will fall into 3 categories: either 1) “yep, I can do that,” 2) a “journey song” (in that he may know it, he may not, but we’ll take that journey together to find out!), and 3) a “No song” that he has no idea how to play anymore. At such a prospect as this, hands immediately shoot up around the room.

The first round of requests are thankfully all in category 1. After the brilliant Northwestern Girls, my request is the second of the batch, in the form of Take Ya’ Dancin’, obviously from the Um, Uh Oh record I was so obsessed with (“one of the few happy songs on a record of sad songs,” according to Eric). And it’s absolutely stunning. I am immediately covered in goosebumps from head to toe, and my eyes actually get a little watery. I loved it back in 2011, and I love it even more in this moment. Very rare a show puts tears in my eyes, and Eric manages it 4 songs in; well played!

Say Hi – Take Ya’ Dancin’ – Living Room Show, Montreal, 05 Oct 2018

Spaceship comes next, followed by Laundry, from the first record Discosadness, introduced by Eric as “whisper quiet.” And he’s not wrong either; you could hear a pin drop throughout. In fact, you can actually hear the floorboards beneath his feet squeak a few times during the song, such is the silence afforded by the crowd. That’s swiftly obliterated by the rapturous cheers that greet the final note though.

The next batch of requests sees the arrival of Maurine from the 2009 Oohs & Aahs record which contrasts a somewhat delicate verse with a relatively thunderous chorus, before following that with November Was White, December Was Grey. Eric declares “I feel like you people relate to this song; the first time I came to Montreal, I felt cold like never before!” Snowcones and Puppies and then Love Love Love are both declared “journey songs” by Eric, but both are successfully traversed, the latter of which leaves the requester in tears. So it’s not just me then!

After a brief pause to take a photo of the crowd pretending they are at an Ozzy Osbourne show watching the best show ever (Eric’s request!), we dish out another round of requests. Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh is followed by Sweat Like The Dew, “for the ladies that really like the Endless Wonder record a lot.” Eric is thrilled by the requests from this record; “I really thought nobody liked that record when it came out!” My next request is granted in the form of Dots on Maps from the “sad” 2011 record I love so much, but not before Eric asks “Simon, do you like sad music in general?!” When I respond that I’m from Manchester and so grew up listening to The Smiths and Joy Division, a few in the crowd chuckle and Eric responds, “well that makes perfect sense then!” Again, I am blasted with another dose of goosebumps and chills for the duration of the song, as a number of the crowd sing along in a low tone. Clearly, this song means a lot to others in the room too. Stellar stuff.

Dots on Maps – Living Room Show, Montreal, 05 Oct 2018

Hallie and Henry and then Hooplas Involving Circus Tricks round off this slew of requests, and suddenly, we are at the end of the set. New songs Every Guage Is On Empty and Neon Signs close out the main set before Eric elects to run straight into an encore (since there’s really nowhere for him to go, besides the adjacent kitchen!). One girl who came prepared with a list of requests (to make sure at least one gets played!) is granted Critters, whilst Pop Music of the Future also gets a low-volume singalong from many in the room. Eric closes with a song that he wants to play, namely, Devils (from the sad record I love! YES!), which, despite the acoustic unplugged nature of the show, comes across extremely ferociously, culminating in a faux rock-and-roll jump on the last note. The show ends a few minutes over the allotted hour-and-a-quarter, but neither host nor crowd is complaining. After The Charlatans last weekend, we unquestionably have another gig-of-the-year frontrunner on our hands; in truth though, it’s hard to see how anything could possibly top this one.

And I would wager that everyone in Raeanne’s living room tonight felt the same way.

Setlist

Green With Envy
Sweaters
Northwestern Girls
Take Ya’ Dancin’
Let’s Talk About Spaceships
Laundry
Maurine
November Was White, December Was Grey
Snowcones and Puppies
Love Love Love
Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh
Sweat Like the Dew
Dots on Maps
Hallie and Henry
Hooplas Involving Circus Tricks
Every Gauge Is on Empty
Neon Signs
Critters
Pop Music of the Future
Devils

Review & photos – Simon Williams

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