Wintersleep @ La Sala Rossa – 11th April 2019

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Wintersleep @ La Sala Rossa

It seems like Wintersleep are finally getting the recognition they deserve in Montreal if the packed-out Sala Rossa tonight is anything to go by.  Granted, they are still not afforded the levels of appreciation they receive across the rest of Canada (as testified to by the bigger venues they play around the country), but it’s a massive improvement on the half-full Bar Le Ritz show of 2016! And long overdue.

The lights dim around 10.40pm and the Halifax 5-piece bound onto the stage, and initiate proceedings with 3 cuts from their newest In The Land Of record, their 7th overall.  Surrender is a slow burner, frontman Paul Murphy opening with the somewhat morbid line “Thirty six years now / Halfway to my tomb / In this flesh I have / Grown accustomed to.”  Ouch.  The mood lifts at the chorus, though, and continues on the considerably more upbeat Into the Shape of Your Heart, Paul replacing his electric guitar for an acoustic, with a triad of harmonies provided by guitarist Tim D’eon, keyboardist Jon Samuel, and bassist Chris Bell.

The bump in the crowd size compared to previous visits is evidently not lost on Paul either: after the song’s conclusion, he exclaims “Thanks, this is a lovely room with people!”  The churning Soft Focus leads into the triumphant Amerika, from their brilliant 2016 record The Great Detachment.  No longer a new song, it really has the feel of a set staple at this point, with both band and crowd howling the “WOOO-OOOO-OOOH” intro in unison.  That record immediately gets further representation in the form of the carnival vibes of Spirit and a stirring More Than, which sees the band turn down the sound towards the end of the song to really accentuate the harmonies, to spectacular effect.

Paul then announces to the crowd “we have a new record out, I hope you know that?!”  The huge cheers that result suggest that they do.  On the first few listens of Waves, I was convinced Paul was asking at the chorus “Am I freaky?!” which sounded very out of place for Wintersleep.  All I could think of was Flight Of The Conchords!  However, upon googling the lyrics, the chorus is actually “I’m a freak here,” which is a little more in keeping with their vibe…  Anyway, Waves is the first of the next block of songs from that new record and is very well received, with one guy in the crowd shouting “SICK!!!” as the song ends.  Never Let You Go is my personal highlight of the record, an uplifting folky strum with duelling harmonies at the chorus, and judging by the huge cheers at its conclusion, may well be the album highlight for a few others as well.  Forest Fire is a much more intricate proposal, with Tim layering all kinds of electric wah-wah distortion throughout.  Beneficiary, in contrast, has a hugely beefed up chorus, which really rams home the heavy subject matter of the song “All my days I wake up, open my eyes / Beneficiary of a genocide,”  in reference to the genocide of Indigenous peoples, and our modern relationship to it. 

The rest of the set and the encore is split between the 2005 Untitled record and 2007’s Welcome To The Night Sky.  Dead Letter & The Infinite Yes is another slow burner, very different to the stomping Weighty Ghost which follows.  Paul declares “we’re gonna go way back with this one!” to which drummer Loel Campbell chips in “TBT!”  After a prolonged instrumental start, Migration sees Tim turn his microphone towards the crowd to allow them to sing the simple “DAH DAH DAH!” chorus, which is easy for everyone to sing along to, even if you didn’t know the song beforehand!  A furious Oblivion and the epic Wurlitzer-heavy Miasmal Smoke & The Yellow Bellied Freaks close out the main set.

After the briefest of pauses, the band return for a 2-song encore.  Laser Beams elicits a huge clap-along, before Nerves Normal, Breath Normal ends the show after 80 minutes in stirring fashion, complete with a massive drum solo from Loel and then groovy tapping hi-hat outro to get everyone dancing one last time.  A stellar set from start to finish, and a jubilant return to Montreal for Wintersleep.

Setlist

Surrender
Into the Shape of Your Heart
Soft Focus
Amerika
Spirit
More Than
Waves
Never Let You Go
Forest Fire
Beneficiary
Dead Letter & The Infinite Yes
Weighty Ghost
Migration
Oblivion
Miasmal Smoke & The Yellow Bellied Freaks

Encore

Laser Beams
Nerves Normal, Breath Normal

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Ramy Elhoufy

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