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Photos and a review of Noah Kahan in Ottawa

[Photographer Ross MacDonald and reviewer Karen Coughtrey were on the beat again. – AC]

There was a buzz in the air on Tuesday in Ottawa, which may have been because of the incoming rain, but it was really because Noah Kahan was bringing his Stick Season (We’ll All Be Here Forever) Tour to town at the Canadian Tire Centre with opener Jensen McRae, which makes a much better story. And the long lines at the merch trailer outside the venue were definitely buzzing with excitement.

 Jensen McRae in Ottawa

Jensen surprised the crowd by appearing on stage 15 minutes earlier than expected and won them over right away with her observations of Canadians’ ability to rock from this, only her second visit to Canada. She opened with ‘Fever Dream’ and ‘God Has A Hitman’, a couple songs off her visual EP ‘It Wasn’t Supposed To Be Like This’.

 Jensen McRae in Ottawa

Jensen knew the crowd were mostly unfamiliar with her work and did a great job of promoting her various works available and sharing the stories behind her songs. ‘Adam’s Ribs’ is about a crush so intense you feel you’re made of their bones and ‘Let Me Be Wrong’ came from a place of wanting to be Fleabag but realising you’re more a Lisa Simpson.

 Jensen McRae in Ottawa

Standing on stage with only her guitar, brother Holden on keys and Kevin Burke on guitar, Jensen had a big job to capture the attention of and entertain the sold out arena but she seemed to do so easily. Her beautiful melodic voice was a treat for the ears, her lyrics intentional and important, and one could sense a tiny twang, giving her music a slight classic country feel.

The crowd were also treated to some so far unreleased tracks, ‘Mother Wound’ about scorpio moons and her closing number, a song she finished after being surprised by the response to the work in progress she posted on social media, the song ‘Massachusetts’ about healing from a broken heart and video games and beer clearly resonated with many.

 Jensen McRae in Ottawa

The excitement was palpable through the break between artists and the entire place was on their feet the second the band took their places on the stage. There was of course a roar of appreciation as Noah took the stage opening with his breakthrough hit ‘Dial Drunk’ and while it was followed by a lesser known track ‘New Perspectives’ the crowd knew every word.

Noah Kahan in Ottawa

Noah had to postpone the show before this one (in London, ON) to next week due to illness, and while he announced he would be singing through a cold and told the crowd to expect to hear croaks and voice cracks, his performance didn’t suffer a bit.

Noah Kahan in Ottawa

In total he would treat the audience to 20 of his best songs (three fewer than the set list from Winnipeg) but you couldn’t find anyone complaining. Everyone was just so happy to be in his presence. Noah is the everyman of current folk rock and his humbleness, awkwardness, and self-deprecating humour make him seem approachable and endear him to the masses. It also helps that his lyrics about growing up in Vermont, which shares a climate similar to that of much of Canada make his songs very relatable to the population up here.

Noah Kahan in Ottawa

His stage set up was intriguing with screens in what might have been rolling hills, or clouds or cresting waves displaying suitable backdrop graphics to compliment his lyrics (like pictures of Strafford Vermont during ‘Homesick’) with what could be sea anemone, or vines or tall sticks of bamboo hanging from above and a stage that looked like it could’ve been made of corrugated cardboard or the balsa wood of a child’s model kit.

Noah Kahan in Ottawa

In a cute moment of the show the stage was turned over to a more intimate set meant to replicate Noah’s Mom’s living room complete with sofa and even paintings and childhood family photos hanging behind them. In this setting he sang ‘Come Over,’ and after a speech about touring and performing and the pitfalls about the pressures giving of yourself to others all the time and how hard it is not to lose oneself and to find the space to take care of oneself he played a clear crowd favourite ‘Godlight.’

Noah Kahan in Ottawa

He may be young but Noah had sound advice for the crowd, speaking about his early ideas of how his life would go before ‘False Confidence,’ Divorce before ‘All My Love’ , the difficulty of having people in one’s life who struggle with addiction before ‘Orange Juice’ and discovering that life can be lonely (even when signed to a record label) and that learning to do things by yourself opens the whole world up to you before ‘You’re Going To Go Far’ which he also dedicated to any members of the crowd far from home.

Noah Kahan in Ottawa

Among the many hits he played he also treated the Ottawa audience to some unreleased tracks ‘Pain Is Cold Water’ which featured a beautiful violin solo from Nina, and ‘Spoiled’ which he played from a B stage at the back end of the arena.

Noah Kahan in Ottawa

Much of Noah’s music is upbeat and Nina on her fiddle had the crowd ready and able to dance but his setlist also included some more ballad-like songs including ‘Forever’ and ‘Call Your Mom’.

Noah Kahan in Ottawa

Noah recognized that Ottawa is a place that gets very cold (we are regularly the coldest capital in the world afterall) and it would appear he was as excited to sing ‘Northern Attitude’ here, as this city of people raised out in the cold with little light, was to sing it with him. It was without a doubt the song the crowd was waiting for and was made even better by the snowfall of confetti which gently trickled down (much nicer than the freak April snowfall we received last week). Now he just needs to come out with Northern Attitude branded merch for his next Canadian tour.

Noah Kahan in Ottawa

Of course no show is complete without an encore and the Ottawa crowd was not disappointed. He reappeared in an Ottawa Senators Jersey (#7 Tkachuk) and played ‘The View Between Villages’ followed by his current radio hit ‘Stick Season’ ending the night as if it were a country jamboree of sorts. The crowd left happy and the lines at the merch tables on the way out were still buzzing.

Noah Kahan – Vocals, Guitar
Nina de Vitry – Violin, Fiddle
Dylan Jones – Keyboard
Alex Bachari – Bass
Marcos Valles – Drums
Noah Levine – Guitar

Jensen McRae – Vocals, Guitar
Kevin Burke – Guitar
Holden McRae – Keyboard

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38291 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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