MORRISBURG – The Playhouse was as packed as it could be. Then the sheer, exploding exuberance of Whitehorse “blew” the roof off the theatre.
Saturday, March 5, was a great night for everyone at the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage concert. For most of us, the only regret all evening was that we couldn’t leap up out of our seats, move and dance to the music.
The rising young artist John Muirhead opened the show with selections from his new album, Traveller. Muirhead has a strong, powerful, versatile voice. Like a new world Bob Dylan, he was accomplished on both the guitar and the harmonica, never more evident than when he was sharing the poignancy of the title cut from Traveller.
Muirhead’s natural and easy sense of humour was evident when he introduced another cut from Traveller. “This song from the album is now, I think, the most expensive cut on it,” he said, straight-faced. “It’s called ‘A Tank of Gas.’” And his reminiscences of a folk festival in Red Rock, where he shared an ‘unforgettable’ after concert get-together with some bluegrass artists and moonshine led to his tongue-in-cheek number, ‘I Can Sleep Anywhere.’
His music and his lyrics are dramatic, different and fascinating: John Muirhead is a young performer who is clearly going places.
Whitehorse hit the stage like dynamite going off – and the pace never let up.
Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet are simply musical firebrands.
Their SLAS concert made it clear that it is impossible to categorize either Whitehorse’s music or their style: that is part of their powerful audience appeal. Joined by drummer John Obercian for some numbers, they stay well away from labels. There are blues undertones to some of their numbers, a heavy metal riff to others, and even a feeling of folk in still other songs.
I experienced flashbacks to early Eric Clapton, even Jimmy Hendrix, when Luke was on the guitar. And Melissa has a voice that soars from the lowest registers to pure diva. Their music is passionate, unexpected and exciting. They shared musical anecdotes and memories with the audience. Yet they can also be intimate performers, who sometimes just stood face to face and quietly sang to a simple guitar melody. They performed a number of cuts from albums they released through the pandemic, ranging from ‘Liar, Liar’ to ‘Strike Me Down.’
Their lyrics make you think. “We were hoping for love/But we got something else…But damned if I’ll die alone.” The beat of Whitehorse’s music is infectious: it was very clear that the audience hated being stuck in their seats with this duo on the stage. You wanted to move to that beat.
“I can’t tell you how much we’ve missed this – being onstage with an actual audience,” Luke and Melissa told the crowd. “This is the first show we’ve played in a long time.”
Way, way too long, as far as Saturday’s audience was concerned. They demanded an encore, and filled the theatre with cheers. Whitehorse definitely had the last word Saturday night: a final number was called (appropriately enough) “Look Out, This is Gonna Blow!”