Gig Review: Bahamas at Massey Hall

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In the midst of studying for exams, finishing group projects, and wrapping up my first semester of university, I somehow found the time to continue going to concerts. There are certain bands that I just didn’t want to miss, regardless of how much work I had to do. I consider concerts necessary for my well-being, and there was no way I was going to deny myself the happiness of seeing some of my favourite musicians once again. That meant that the last Friday before the end of the semester was spent in a jam-packed Massey Hall being serenaded by Afie Jurvanen. I can’t complain.

I consider Bahamas to be a national treasure. I can’t imagine the Canadian music scene without him, and when I think of my favourite Canadian bands, Afie’s up there with The Darcys and Alvvays and Modern Space. I had the pleasure of seeing him this past January in Peterborough and I was pleasantly surprised by how incredible he is and how well he engages with the audience. He’s endearing and humble and he jokes around with the crowd and that makes for a wonderfully entertaining show. Of course, when he was the first one announced for this year’s Live at Massey Hall series, I jumped at the chance to see him once again.

Bahamas’ music is soft and soothing, and the live show doesn’t differ too much in terms of the musical performance. The night started off with “Lost in the Light” and I was instantly captivated. It seems that every time I see him I’m reminded of just how good he is. His vocals are rich and smooth and you can see the passion in his face as he belts out every note with the perfect amount of emotion.

The set continued with “Never Again,” which is perhaps one of my favourite Bahamas songs. The female vocalist who accompanies Afie, Felicity Williams, is absolutely glorious. Her vocals are sonic perfection and every time I hear her sing I feel like I could lay on the floor and drown in her voice. Together, Afie and Felicity create stunning harmonies that are so beautiful that on the way out of Massey Hall after the show, during the usual debrief that Katelyn and I have after concerts, I told her that I wanted to bathe in their vocals. Casual.

As the show went on, Bahamas churned out hit singles “Stronger Than That” and “All the Time,” pulling them off with ease and the kind of familiarity that settles in when you can tell that a musician has played a song dozens of times. He also played a brand new song that had the entire crowd cheering and clapping, despite the fact that he insisted he was just toying with new content and it wasn’t likely that the track would end up on a new record. Between the well-known tracks he slipped in “Waves” and “Can’t Take You With Me” and “All I’ve Ever Known,” among other fan favourites.  Even after the encore, the audience was left wanting more and Afie fulfilled an earlier request to play “Hockey Teeth,” making everyone’s night feel a little more special.

One of my favourite things about a Bahamas show is Afie’s awkward stage presence and the banter he sparks with the crowd. He’s a hilarious front man, making comments about how oddly he danced even before Drake made that cool in the “Hotline Bling” music video and passing off song requests  yelled out from the crowd with the explanation that the set lists are decided weeks before and passed on from The Man, making it impossible for him to make any changes. Before exiting the stage, he transformed the crowd into a chorus, getting everyone to sing various “oooohhss” as the band left us wanting even more than what we had been given. It was spectacularly entertaining, and Katelyn and I spent a lot of the moments in between songs with our faces in our hands and our heads on each other’s shoulders because we were laughing so hard. It was a great night.

I always find it hard to leave a venue after a show is done. This is going to sound incredibly dramatic, but the moments when a band walks off a stage and the lights come back on in full force feel like a slow death, like the gig is dying out and you’ll never experience something like that again. And I suppose that is somewhat true – no gig is ever the same twice. Even a carefully rehearsed Taylor Swift tour can’t be exactly the same every time, and that difference is even bigger when bands can switch up their sets and play different songs each night. There’s no script or choreography and you don’t really know what you’re going to get each time, but that’s just part of the fun and excitement.

Leaving Bahamas was like a hard blow to the chest. The show had me overjoyed and over the moon, and the walk out of the venue came with loads of sadness. Afie knows how to put on a show – he’s an insanely skilled performer, and the same goes for his backing band, especially Felicity. I spent the majority of the gig doubled over with laughter or with my mouth hanging open in awe, and a musician that makes you feel such an off multitude of emotions at once can be hard to come by. Seeing Bahamas for a second time felt like shining stars and wearing sweaters at the beach on a foggy day and loads of other good things jam-packed into a couple of hours. I cherished every single second. I’m looking forward to seeing where the band grows and how it evolves, and I can’t wait to hear a fourth album and see another live show.

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