The Paper Kites + Tall Heights @ l’Astral – 9th October 2019

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Wednesdays: the middle of the week. Right in the thick of it, busy and stressed. The weekend is so close, yet so far. This show was just what I needed after a long Wednesday. 

I rushed into L’Astral hoping to make it in time for the opener: Tall Heights. Thank goodness I did. The duo, made up of Tim Harrington and Paul Wright, from Boston, let us know it was only their second time in Montreal and said “Bonjour” which earned a laugh from the audience. 

Tall Heights at l’Astral in Montreal

The two of them stood on either side of the stage, one with a cello and one with a guitar. A drummer sat in between them. The union of their voices was amazing, complimenting each other’s harmonies perfectly. Not to mention their hilarious banter back and forth in between songs. 

About halfway through, Tim goes, “We’re gonna ask you to sing along to this next one. It’s a French word, so you should know it… ‘Oh.’” And without missing a beat, transitioned into Not Like It Was which ended up being my favourite. 

I think I knew one of their songs prior to seeing them live. One of those songs that came up in my ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist on Spotify that I saved to my library. By the end of their set, I didn’t care which one it was. I searched them up and saved them all. 

The drummer left as Tim and Paul stood side by side at centre stage. The lights were off, as a single source lit them from below. Kinda like a flashlight telling ghost stories around a campfire – but they made it artistic. They unplugged and sang Leonard Cohen’s, Bird On A Wire. Risky. Yet so very successful. With just their voices, a guitar and a cello, they pulled it off beautifully and the crowd applauded longer than any applause usually lasts. 

Then, Tall Heights did something I’ve never seen before. They instructed everyone to pull out their phones.. and I was expecting the typical ‘turn on your flashlight and wave it back and forth’ but no! We were told to call someone right next to us, put them on speaker, then put the phones face-to-face and as they started playing the next song, Cross My Mind, the phones made these crazy frequency bird sounds and my mind was blown. People hung up their calls to record the sounds that were happening around them instead. So cool. 

Lights faded in and out, creating a serene setting on stage. The audience gave a small cheer when they played the first few chords of Spirit Cold, their most well-known song, as those who knew the words started to sing along. 

They ended the set with Fire Escape and then headed for the merch booth to meet everyone before The Paper Kites. Two great dudes. 

Tall Heights is back in Montreal on their own tour next year on Friday March 13, 2020 at Petit Campus.

The Paper Kites in Montreal

In between sets, the stage transformed into a bedroom-like setting with blinds that hung on the left side. Bring Your Own Blinds. The crowd that filled L’Astral was exactly what I expected: young adults, mostly couples, and older people that filled the balcony upstairs.

Half an hour later, the track to A Gathering on the 57th welcomed all 5 members of The Paper Kites as they sauntered onto the stage. The indie rock-folk band from Melbourne, Australia are on a huge North American bus tour, before they head to Europe to finish off the year. The only female in the group, Hannah Cameron, joins The Paper Kites on this tour, replacing Christina Lacy on the keyboard and vocals. 

If I were to describe a Paper Kites gig in 3 phrases, I would say sombre lighting, soft sounds and smoke machines. Give Me Your Fire, Give Me Your Rain kicked off the night, followed by Revelator Eyes and the upbeat When It Hurts You. Lead singer, Sam Bentley greeted the crowd after the first three songs. It has been one year since they played in Montreal at the Corona Theatre, and welcomed us all to a Paper Kites show. He prefaced by saying, “There’s always 2 kinds of people that show up: the first being the lovers, spooning each other vertically all night, and the second being the really sad single people – those that just came here to cry in the darkness.” The lovers and the lonely… makes sense. 

The Paper Kites released two albums in 2018, ‘On The Train Ride Home’ and ‘On The Corner Where You Live’ and played a mix of both new and old music. The crowd gasped when they played Arms a soft ballad that got everyone swaying side to side. 

Frontman Sam told the story behind the song, Between The Houses which he wrote in the “search for something real.” The harmonica headset came on as people whistled along. Then, in a somewhat predictive manner, a dark blue light filled the room for Deep Burn Blue. The 5-piece group has a pretty distinctive sound, yet reminded me of Beach House or Lord Huron throughout some songs. 

Those kinds of songs you listen to in your headphones wandering the streets late at night. More or less, with the intention of letting a good cry out. I overheard a young man beside me say to himself, “He’s really good.” And that’s all you need to know. 

They played a new song, Straight To You followed by an old one, St. Clarity. It was interesting to see, well – hear, how their sound has evolved over the years. Although the show was quiet and intimate, sometimes I felt like I couldn’t even whisper to my friend beside me without causing a disturbance. 

Still to this day, Bloom remains their most successful record from their very first EP, ‘Woodland’ from 2013. People bopped along to this one and everyone knew the words, pulling out their phones to record the crowd favourite. They ended with Don’t Keep Driving before saying “Merci beaucoup” and leaving the stage. 

More smoke and ambience lighting filled the room and within a couple of minutes of everyone giving their most respectful cheer for more, they came back admitting to the Wednesday-blues, “I know it’s a Wednesday night but we’re gonna do 2 more songs.” 

For the encore, they covered Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game and finally, all gathered to the front for a final poetic send-off with On The Train Ride Home basked in that warm bedroom lighting. At the end, train sounds were heard as the 5 of them peacefully departed.

With many guitar changes and banjo playing, The Paper Kites’ ethereal, moody sound got everyone in a trance. They have visited Montreal 5 or 6 times now, and Ben mentioned that they are still surprised that people keep coming back. You definitely have to be in a certain type of mood to enjoy the music, but I would come back. 

I left the venue as if I just left a meditation class, feeling all the feels and thinking a little too deeply about life. It was slow, and quite frankly a little sad, yet definitely enjoyable. 

Highlight – David Powys on the banjo. 

Lowlight – The low lights. Literally. It was hard to see. 

Crowd Pleaser – Bloom. Definitely Bloom. 

Tall Heights – Set List 

  • No Man Alive 
  • Horse to Water 
  • Infrared 
  • Not Like It Was 
  • Bird On A Wire – Leonard Cohen 
  • Cross My Mind 
  • Spirit Cold
  • Fire Escape

The Paper Kites – Set List

  • A Gathering on the 57th
  • Give Me Your Fire, Give Me Your Rain
  • Revelator Eyes 
  • When It Hurts You
  • Flashes 
  • Arms
  • Tenenbaum 
  • Between The Houses
  • Deep Burn Blue
  • Straight To You – exclusive to Mtl and every other city on this tour
  • St. Clarity 
  • Bloom
  • Electric Indigo 
  • Don’t Keep Driving 
  • Encore
  • Wicked Game – Chris Isaak
  • On The Train Ride Home 

Review & Photos – Ryley Remedios

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