With their fourth album Second Sight now out in the U.S., Newfoundland's Hey Rosetta! has been on the road promoting it, much of the time spent on a bill with fellow Canadian band Stars. They are now starting to schedule some headlining dates and few will be as special as the one at The Ark in Ann Arbor Monday night.
I've been fortunate to see some of my favorite artists at The Ark over the years including Bell X1, James Vincent McMorrow and Jessica Hernandez and The Deltas. I rave every time afterwards about the experience as there truly is not another venue quite like it in Michigan. Shows here don't even feel like concerts, they feel like private performances for you and a couple hundred friends, it is that intimate of a setting. Needless to say, getting to see what I feel is the best band coming out of Canada right now in this environment was an amazing experience.
Starting the evening was Kevin Garrett, a Pittsburgh born singer/songwriter now based out of Brooklyn. Garrett performed solo, just vocals and keyboard, and easily won over the audience with his soulful falsetto and self deprecating sense of humor. He performed a few songs not yet released, as well as the two tracks you can currently grab online, "Coloring" and "Control" and a cover of Bon Iver's "Skinny Love". It was one of those opening sets that made me want to seek out his music right away and I'll definitely be watching for his promised 2015 EP release. Between his mesmerizing voice and meaningful, mature lyrics, Garrett's take on electronic R&B balladry is a must hear.
Hey Rosetta! then took to the stage and started the show as their new album starts, with its first two songs, "Soft Offering (For The Oft Suffering)" and "Gold Teeth". I figured at this point it may be one of those sets where the band plays through the new album then plays some of their older favorites to close out the night but one of those older favorites was next with "Yer Spring". This was actually the first song I ever heard by the group, the one that enticed me to check out more of their material back in 2011 so it was fitting as the first older song of the night.
My favorite song on Second Sight, "What Arrows" followed and it was every bit as wonderful live as on record, a beautiful building near seven minute piece. They dipped back to their last album Seeds for my favorite track off that one with "Young Glass". At this point I could have gone home happy with the set but there was plenty more magic to follow.
In all, seven of the twelve tracks off the new album were played, including "Cathedral Bells" and "Kintsukuroi". They did go back even further to my favorite album of theirs, 2008's Into Your Lungs (And Around In Your Heart And On Through Your Blood) for three songs starting with "Red Heart" which got the majority of the usually reserved, seated crowd at The Ark out of their seats and dancing. They then segued into the ending of that album's "Black Heart" to close out this song, highlighting one of the things I love the most about a Hey Rosetta! show. They often stretch songs out beyond their studio versions with solos and extended instrumental endings, showing the absolute power of this band in a live setting. Tim Baker alternates between electric and acoustic guitar and keyboards all evening, Romesh Thavanathan jumps from instrument to instrument throughout the show and they're not the only ones in the seven piece who do this. I'm always just left in awe when I see this high of a level of musicianship in person.
The main set closed out with a rollicking version of "Welcome" and another of my favorites from Into Your Lungs, "New Goodbye". The audience went nuts when the band left the stage, breaking out into a chant of "Hey Rosetta!" complete with claps. Baker remarked upon returning that they weren't quite sure what to expect from the show but it was obvious how pleased he and his band mates were with the reception. They promised one more song, "Bandages", but were enticed to close the night with "A Thousand Suns" which had all in attendance clapping and singing along.
This was by far the most raucous gathering I have ever heard at The Ark. Obviously a lot of folks made the trip from Ontario to see the popular Canadian band and I can't emphasize enough how special it is seeing one of your favorites in this setting. Hopefully this won't be the last time Hey Rosetta! graces The Ark's stage. I've seen them three times now and they definitely live up to the billing of one of Canada's best bands to see live.A special thanks to Matt Antonich for sharing his pictures from the show.