Musical magic at St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage – AHI with Graham Greer

MORRISBURG – By the end of the Saturday, February 25 St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage concert, at Upper Canada Playhouse, absolutely no one was sitting in the seats.

That’s because the whole audience was up on its feet, clapping, cheering, singing, even dancing along, as guest artist AHI, joined by fellow musician Graham Greer, rocked the house. It was a night of musical magic.

The magic began the moment Graham Greer, opening for AHI, stepped on to the stage, with just his acoustic guitar. Greer may look unassuming, standing alone in the spotlight, but when he starts to sing, he is a man on fire. His voice is powerful, with a surprisingly wide vocal range: as he said in an earlier Leader interview, “Music is and always will be a passion for me.” He proved that with songs like ‘Palookaville,’ searching for self identity and self worth (“I could have been someone…I’m a jigsaw man/missing pieces still unfound”) and the hilarious – his wife will surely forgive him! – ‘Pigeon Toed Girl.’

Greer’s music is very personal. He shared stories and background to the songs including his new release, ‘I Take It All Back.’ “Sometimes the way people present themselves is not the way they turn out to be…That’s all I’m gonna say.” A song he wrote 22 years ago, ‘Arizona,’ was a beautiful and popular piece which also showcased his ability to play the mouth organ, reminiscent of Bob Dylan. Greer possesses an infectious sense of humour when he performs (as he laughed in the Leader interview, “I can be a bit of a smart ass”). This accounts for his ‘romantic’ number ‘Make You Mine,’ a piece which he assured the crowd was written because his mother told him that love songs are “where the money is.”

Graham Greer’s music is passionate, raw and real. He deeply connected with the audience at the SLAS concert. He loves the relationship performing live gives him with listeners. To loud cheers and applause he finished his set with the good times ahead number ‘Lucky Streak.’ “I’m on a lucky streak/To hell with the blues/ I’m on a lucky streak…And I know I can’t lose.”

AHI simply burst on to the stage. Backed by incredible drummer Isaiah Gibbons, with only his guitar in hand, he seemed to dominate the stage. His voice and vocal style are utterly unique, completely his own. No one else writes and sings like AHI: the audience was swept into his world right from the opening song, ‘Breakin’ Ground.’

It is evident when he performs that his music comes from a place deep within his soul. His songs may be sad, they may be thoughtful, loving or funny, even, at times, angry, but they are never cookie cutter songs.

AHI is an original.

Saturday night he told stories from the Upper Canada Playhouse stage that allowed the audience to understand the sources of, and inspirations for, his music. He sang of the challenges of relationships – a focus in his writing. In songs like ‘Closer from a Distance,’ he shared that “sometimes in spite of all you do, you can’t help someone.” “Brother, I mean it when I say/ I don’t want to walk away/ I don’t want to watch a man fall apart… ” He sang of facing life’s challenges and holding on to hope. “Keep your chin up high/ Gonna get through this black cloud storm/ Don’t you dare lose heart/ …I won’t let you down.”

He also has a great sense of humour. When he was “independent and broke” he took a job on VIA Rail as a travelling singer in the passenger cars (“kind of busking on a train” he laughed). From that journey came the story of the wealthy Hong Kong architect who wanted him to spontaneously create a love song for his girlfriend – and was willing to pay well. And a song did emerge from that unexpected incident.

There were touching moments in his concert: he dedicated a number to all those lost to “senseless violence.” He sang of fears and the need to hold on to others when the world is cruel. As AHI told the audience “Thoughts and emotions are tangible things we can all tap into.” And he did tap into them throughout his performance.

As the concert finished, joined on stage by Graham Greer, AHI invited everyone to get to their feet, come to the foot of the stage and sing with him. As he proclaimed “The feeling performing here in Morrisburg is the most wonderful thing in the world.”

It was a memorable end to an outstanding evening of music with two amazing artists, AHI and Graham Greer, all thanks to the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage.

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