Last Sunday, two pinnacles of Canadian music graced the National Arts Centre’s grandiose Southam Hall. The arrival of Hey Rosetta! supported by Yukon Blonde was anticipated by many in the city of Ottawa, and I, for one, could not contain my excitement leading up to the event. Hey Rosetta! sits firmly in my top three Canadian bands of the modern era, and I can never say no to the upbeat fun of a Yukon Blonde set. Once an exquisite concert hall was throw into the mix, all in attendance knew they were in for something special.
Yukon Blonde has this miraculous ability to play in places that I already happen to be. This was my fifth Yukon Blonde show, and the third time that I have seen them as an opener. This show, however, was my first chance to see this band in a venue that could really showcase their sound. In the perfect acoustics of Southam Hall, the vocal harmonies that are integral to Yukon Blonde’s sound rang out with exceptional clarity. The songs from their third record, On Blonde, sounded great live, and the addition of a synth player to the band was a nice touch.
Hey Rosetta! has proven to me on two other occasions that they are a band you absolutely cannot miss when they come to town. Their performance was nothing short of stellar, with power, patience, intricacy, and delicacy coming together in every song. The band seemed so enthused to be playing at the NAC, and the energy reciprocated by an audience that danced when the pace was high and sat attentively during ballads seemed to drive the band to new heights. Every member of the band could be heard perfectly, and every harmony realized its full potential in that room.
The setlist was made up primarily of songs from Second Sight, as was expected, with “Promise” taking the place of the energetic opener. The two Second Sight tunes that stuck out to me were “What Arrows” and “Alcatraz”, with the band taking full advantage of the resonance of Southam Hall to accentuate these slower, building pieces. Seeds got relatively little attention, but “Young Glass” and “Welcome” both made great additions to the list. A revamped cover of “Stand By Me” provided a new familiar touch to the show. Yukon Blonde joining Hey Rosetta! on stage during the encore was a beautiful display of vocal harmony. No matter what they chose to play, the result was stunning.
The aspect that made me happiest of all was the attention given to Into Your Lungs, my personal favourite Hey Rosetta! record. “Red Heart” with the build from “Black Heart” was a pairing that was not unexpected, but incredibly welcome. “New Goodbye” made for a perfect show closer, mixing poetry, precise string arrangements, and raw power. But better than any other song of the show was a song that I have hoped to hear each time I have seen this band. “Handshake the Gangster”, the song that melds a soft intro with a frenetic energy had me in pure bliss. Just hearing the fading outro jam get completed and explored was like hearing a resolution that I had been waiting on for years.
This was a show that I will always remember. In a year full of incredible concerts, Hey Rosetta! and Yukon Blonde in Southam Hall was one of the greatest. Don’t sleep on these bands people.