Photographs by Daniela Tantalo.
The Tuesday stop on Lindsey Stirling’s Brave Enough tour was packed to the rafters, having sold out the entire Sony Centre with a variety of fans eager for her unique mixture of dance, song and, of course, violin. The venue being fancier than what I’m used to I dressed up a bit and it was clear on arrival that some had similarly gone for the formal look while others ranged from casual to outfits straight out of her “Roundtable Rival” video. Stirling has had quite an evolution through her career, from a grunge Steampunk-esque aesthetic to a more streamlined pop vibe, and the outfits and audience members in them put that range front and centre.
Before Lindsey was the opener, Shawn Hook. The Canadian singer began his set with a stripped-down mournful love song, centre stage with his monogrammed piano. He clearly has natural talent on both vocals and piano, showcasing emotion in his singing that perhaps stops just shy of genuine. The second song was his 2015 hit single “Relapse” and the crowd went wild, showing that some of the audience (especially the younger female fans) were here for him as well. The spotlight stayed trained on Hook, keeping all attention on him despite a dynamic backing band. His guitarist had a classic rock look while the drummer sported a Mohawk but despite the best intentions, these two couldn’t take away the clean-cut, meticulously produced nature of the lead himself. He finished with “Sound of Your Heart”, his other 2015 hit, to uproarious applause. Perhaps he is an over-polished boardroom dream but hey, he puts on a hell of a show, I have to give him that.
During the following intermission I lingered a bit too long, finishing a conversation with a friend as most everyone had already found their seats. Heading to the right orchestra doors a venue employee gestures for me to wait. It took me a moment but I saw why: standing outside the doors as the audience inside waited in anticipation was Lindsey Stirling, violin in hand and ready to go. She turned to the other stragglers and I and smiled, putting a finger to her lips as the music swelled inside. We heard cheers go up from the audience, watching a silhouette on stage they believed to be Stirling herself. Raising her violin and beginning to play, staff opened the doors and she walked through, stealthily taking her place in the aisle. We slunk in behind her to our seats just in time to see the spotlight fall upon her as she posed then pranced down the aisle to the stage past stunned fans, never missing a beat. Once there, she showcased her unique mix of Celtic, Irish, contemporary and ballet-like dancing, alternating from one move seamlessly to the next, always playing, her face lit up with joy. As the song ended and the final pose was struck the audience fell into an uproar of applause. This was what they came for, and it was no less than everything they could have hoped for.
Following the intro was Stirling’s new single “Prism”, backed on screens behind with visuals from the music video. A decidedly poppy track, Stirling and her backup dancers fell more to the contemporary hip-hop side of things with the occasional traditional move. The song is a bit of a departure from her usual fare, but Stirling pulls it off with success. In this song and throughout the show the backup dances moved in sync, adding to her movements and presence rather than taking attention away despite their obvious skill and precision.
The third song brought about one of many costume changes the night would hold, a flowing white dress to fit the white light projections that fell across the stage like snow. The song, “Shatter Me”, showcased Stirling’s vocals in place of the featured artist Lzzy Hale. Leaving the microphone behind, Stirling danced into impossibly high kicks as the backing dancers appeared, showcasing pirouettes and jumps against the nature visuals appearing on the backing screens. As with all her songs the drum backing, provided live on stage by drummer Drew Steen, added a danceable beat that grounds the music in more accessible territory and adds weight to the violin chords.
A high point of the night was when Lindsey and her band, alone and acoustic on centre stage, played “Something Wild”, a song written for the Disney film Pete’s Dragon. It was intimate, a moment removed from the flair and production of the night, and proved that even without the theatrics Stirling is an extraordinarily talented musician and composer. The night had a few of these moments, another notable one being Stirling discussing the death of a former band mate in September of last year and preforming the song they worked on together. The emotion in her music was never more evident than in these raw moments where we, the audience, were given a rare look into the life and heart of an artist. The night was perhaps closer to opera than concert, to Broadway than set list, providing storytelling, emotion, visual production and talent while still maintaining the integrity of the music. Lindsey Stirling is a talent to be enjoyed live, and often, no doubt with a residency in Vegas someday soon calling her name.