X Ambassadors in Ottawa: Photos and a review

[Another report from correspondents Ross MacDonald and Karen Coughtrey. – AC]

It may have been a rainy night outdoors but that didn’t stop the crowds from lining up around the block for X Ambassadors (The Townie Tour) and opener Noah Gundersen at Ottawa’s Bronson Centre Thursday night.

Noah Gundersen, an indie folk singer-songwriter from Seattle, is no stranger to the stage and although he stood alone up there, his presence is commanding and his beautiful gentle vocals and soft guitar filled the room.

He played a small selection of songs from across his 10 year discography including ‘Lose You’, ‘First Defeat’, and ‘Atlantis’, and of course threw a new song in the middle of the set.

He set the tone of his set by opening with a song for everyone who gets anxious, ‘Robin Williams’ and shared stories behind other songs such as ‘Exit Signs’ about the moment you realise you can’t self destruct anymore everytime you feel something; or ‘Cigarettes’ which was based off of a text he sent to a girl.

He had nothing but nice things to say about our beautiful country (he recently had a stop in Banff) and the beautiful people but had no qualms pitting them against each other in his quest to adequately warm up the crowd, telling the Ottawa crowd the show the night before (in Montreal) had been really great and a gauntlet had been thrown.

That said he had no issues with the adoring Ottawa crowd who did their part to participate and interact and build energy and anticipation. One could tell by his reception that he had many fans in the crowd but he still expressed his gratitude for those who showed up early to catch his set as he was keenly aware his music is vastly different from that of the night’s headliner.

It was a good thing Noah left the crowd in a good mood as they were kept waiting for the main event by a pesky smoke alarm that went off in a neighbouring wing and caused a short (but irritating) delay.

X Ambassadors took the stage declaring “We made it!” and got the crowd involved right away, reaching the mic out into the audience right from the beginning lyrics of their megahit ‘Renegades’.

The band’s new album is ‘Townie’ and frontman Sam Harris gave an impassioned speech about his hometown where he and keyboardist brother Casey grew up, Ithaca, New York; a place he ran away from as soon as he was able. He perhaps forgot momentarily he was speaking to Canadians as he described the cold climate of the place as if it might be something vastly different than our experience.

He now has a great appreciation for his hometown and its people, those who believed in him and in particular his late teacher, Todd Peterson who taught him his work ethic and everything he knows about being onstage. He performs ‘Your Town’ for Ithaca and Todd but also for the members of their audiences,

“It’s for you, it’s for your town, it’s for the people who loved you and raised you and nurtured you and believed in you before you believed in yourself.”

In a similar vein, Sam explained he’s been working on himself by remembering to be grateful for what he’s got, the subject of the song ‘Rashad’.

Sam had many such talks with the audience. Talking about different types of friendships and dedicating ‘Friend For Life’ to all our friends and talking about the power of a love song, his wife (who also happens to be his highschool sweetheart), and wishing the audience bring to mind something human, animal or otherwise that they love as they listened to ‘Half Life’.

The band, like most, is made up of excellent musicians and the crowd went wild for the guitar solo’s of Russ and the beautiful keyboard intros and interlude Casey performed for them. Their musicianship and brotherly love perhaps inspired others to ‘Start A Band’ a number they played after a short speech about the importance of having a dream.

X Ambassadors music ranges from hard rocking, to much more mellow tracks and they ended the main set on a slower note, that not surprisingly had the audience waving their flashlights to their hit ‘Unsteady’.

They started the encore, waking any drowsy audience members, with the hard-driving and irresistible drum beat of ‘Boom’ and kept that energy going with ‘Jungle’. They finished off the night with an audience request, ‘Sunoco’, a request they were happy to oblige as it is a new one found on their newest album.

X Ambassadors
Sam Harris – lead vocals, guitar
Casey Harris – piano, keyboards, backing vocals
Adam Levin – drums, percussion
Russ Flynn – guitar, bass, backing vocals

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 38296 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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