Photos and a review of The Strumbellas in Ottawa

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

Midwinter, a period sometimes full of dreary grey days, could use some livening up, particularly to break up the slog of the work week. Folks with tickets to Ottawa’s Bronson Centre Wednesday night got infused with such a mid-week jolt as The Strumbellas brought their ‘Part Time Believer’ tour through town, supported by Dom Louis.

Dom Louis got the night off to a good start with a few notes on the harmonica before jumping into their lively opener ‘Open Fire’ which had the audience joining in, clapping to the beat, from the get-go. The lights too seemed to be in on the action as they swept across the stage twirling as if dancing a jig before reaching skyward in a motion that almost seemed like a spiritual moment inviting the crowd to quiet their minds and let loose.

Next they would play ‘First Light’, a song off their debut album released last year but the band was happy to announce they finally had copies of the album available. That was not the end of the happy news as Dom introduced the following song as the happiest song he’d ever written in his life and reminisced about the surreal last year that included doing bigger shows and proposing to his girlfriend at Christmas. If you missed it live you can find ‘Walking To Your Doorway’ on the album ‘Honest Love’ released just this January.

Dom Louis has an incredible folk rock sound, with a stellar group of bandmates behind him, made even more wonderful by the addition of a fiddler to the band. Like being at an east coast kitchen party or a country jamboree the listener knows they are in for a good time and Dom Louis did not disappoint. Will Lamoureux was magical on the fiddle and the band knows the key role he plays and the element he brings to their shows, as they lamented that he would be leaving them to join chanteuse Quebecoise Charlotte Cardin.

Dom Louis treated the audience to both his first song ever released, ‘Dream On My Baby’ and one he’d just written earlier in the week ‘Higher Place.’ He told the crowd he would play his song ‘Last Bets’ to calm his nerves and performed a cover of Tyler Childers’ ‘Follow You To Virgie,’ which he said was one of his favourite songs to chill out with.

Dom revealed he was having to hobble around the stage due to some intense action in a squash match with a bandmate but you wouldn’t know anything was wrong as he put on one heck of a show and they wrapped up their set on a high note with ‘Red Like Stone’ and ‘Down Every Road’.

The opening of The Strumbellas set was almost like watching an old black and white movie as they set the mood with white back-lights and entered the stage and began to play one instrument at a time in a dreamlike serene choreographed dance of sorts.

Once all on stage the tempo increased, the lights turned a fiery orangey red, and they had the crowd moving their bodies to ‘Running Scared (Desert Song)’. They moved right into ‘We Don’t Know’ which had the audience clapping along to Izzy’s stylings on the fiddle mid-song.

The two time Juno Award winning band has been through some recent changes with Jimmy Chauveau (of alt-rock duo Kadeema) taking over as singer from Simon Ward who chose to step back and take on a behind-the-scenes role and to focus on family in 2022. Although some fans expressed some surprise at the change, and said the performance was different than they expected, everyone seemed elated with the performance, and all the songs they performed from the new album ‘Part Time Believer’, released earlier this month were well received. They played ‘Hold Me’ the first single off the album as well as ‘Running Out of Time’, ‘Let Down’, and ‘Holster.’

This of course is the Part Time Believer Tour and part of the deal is the band has a Believer Box into which fans could submit beliefs and although the box didn’t make it to Ottawa, they were able to share some fan beliefs for the band, including believing they wouldn’t forget the lyrics. This was a lighter moment of the evening but keyboardist Dave Ritter had clearly been tasked with providing some comic relief as he poked fun at his father’s heritage, tried to control the band with his mind (third time was the charm) and seemingly was left out of the loop on some key setlist planning. They explained there is one part of the night where they play one of five covers and the Ottawa audience was ultimately treated to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Maps’.

They brought the jamboree vibes from the opening set back with a country set of their own, delighting the audience with ‘Lakes’ and ‘Home Sweet Home’ before telling the crowd how their voices are the heart and soul of the band and asking them to shout every lyric whether they know them or not which of course had the crowd amped and singing loudly and proudly to ‘Shovels and Dirt’.

They then mellowed the mood again by moving into an acoustic set featuring ‘Wreckage’ and ‘I’ll Wait’ asking the crowd to pull out their lighters or cell phone flashlight even though as they admitted it’s cliché and overdone, it really helps set a mood.

The tranquil mood was not set to last long though as they immediately declared we were reaching the end of the night and asked the crowd to ramp it up again with every ounce of energy a Wednesday night could provide and moved into a lively performance of ‘Young & Wild’ which certainly had the audience moving and sending the energy right back to the band.

Although they may love the overdone starlight mood created by cellphone flashlights they spared the crowd from another common cliché and didn’t leave the stage to come back for an encore instead just moving straight into the crowd pleaser ‘Salvation’ and finishing of course with ‘Spirits’.

The Strumbellas
Jimmy Chauveau – lead vocals, guitar
David Ritter – keyboards, vocals
Jon Hembrey – guitar, backing vocals
Isabel “Izzy” Ritchie – violin, backing vocals
Darryl James – bass, backing vocals
Miles Gibbons – drums

Dom Louis
Dom Louis – vocals, guitar, harmonica
William Lamoureux – violin/fiddle
Chase Donoghue – drums
Adam Webster – guitar
Keegan Beach – bass

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 38532 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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