Montreal International Jazz Festival 2017 – Show Review – The Strumbellas

Photo Credit: April Yablonovitch

Just one year after playing at Osheaga (including a late night after show), The Strumbellas returned to Montreal, this time performing as part of the city’s International Jazz Festival. I was excited to catch the indie folk band at the packed Metropolis on Thursday night. Opening up the show was Hamilton husband and wife duo, Whitehorse. With their gorgeous blending of vocals and more laid-back vibe, the band helped warm the crowd up for The Strumbellas.

The Strumbellas took the stage just after 10 PM, beginning with “Wars” from their most recent album, Hope. Over the course of the night, the band covered most of the songs off the new record, including “Young And Wild,” “The Hired Band,” “Dog,” and my personal favorites, “We Don’t Know” and “Shovels And Dirt.” We were also treated to several older songs from the band’s first two records, My Father And The Hunter (2012) and We Still Move On The Dance Floors (2013).

As with any Strumbellas show, we weren’t just treated to the music, but to an entire evening of entertainment. This started right away when front man Simon Ward bet keyboardist Dave Ritter that he could get the balcony to scream louder than the floor (Dave won and will be treated to a free breakfast in the near future). We also got to witness a dance competition between Simon and lead guitarist, Jon Hembrey (which Dave also somehow managed to win).

One of the highlights of the show was the performance of “The Fire,” which The Strumbellas played unplugged. With all six members singing together, the sound was beautiful, and managed to travel throughout the entire venue. Another highlight was when the band played their most popular song, “Spirits” for their final song of the set, getting the entire crowd dancing and singing along. The Strumbellas returned for a three-song encore, beginning with “Home Sweet Home” followed by “In This Life,” including a stunning violin solo by Isabel Ritchie, and concluding with “Wild Sun.”

To describe The Strumbellas in a single phrase would be “pure joy.” It is clear that each member of the band is having an incredible time on stage together, and they make sure that everyone in the audience shares in their fun. With their predominantly upbeat, positive music, their passion, and their infectious energy, it is impossible to leave a Strumbellas show feeling anything other than joyful and carefree.

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