Australia’s Hein Cooper kicked off the evening’s programme with a mix of typical singer-songwriter aesthetic and an atypical array of electronics and pedals. This combination of gear gave his sound an extra aspect of intrigue, allowing him a slight differentiation from your typical acoustic guitar slinging solo artist.
Cooper, who recorded his debut album in Montreal (“Are there any Montrealers here? Tabernac!”), claimed that of all the stops on the tour thus far, he felt most at home in Toronto as he’d spent some time in the city before. With a charismatic confidence and kind swagger, he moved between traditional emotive acoustic fare (“Rusty”) and edgier tunes (“Overflow”). A lackadaisical and sultry rendition of Aloe Blacc’s “I Need A Dollar’, complete with latin-esque guitar flourishes, was subject of an audience sing-a-long.
Though a one-man band, Hein Cooper creates intricate and immersive soundscapes through his emotion packed falsetto and tenor, layered loops, and guitar work at times introspective, yearning, and edgy.
Danish group, Lukas Graham, is (in my humble opinion) fronted by one of the best voices in pop music right now. Vocalist Lukas Forchhammer is gifted with one of those voices that sounds better live than in the studio. High tones are performed with ease, and each note is delivered with gorgeous texture, urgency, and energy.
Though the group is best known for their emotional ballad “7 Years”, they excel on both sides of the energy spectrum. Opening numbers “Take the World By Storm” and “Drunk In The Morning” kicked off their set with enthusiasm, as Forchhammer, and bassist Magnus Larsson took turns running back and forth between the raised platforms on either side of the stage.
The space between songs was filled with genuine banter from Forchhammer, who shared a humbly appreciative yet charismatic rapport with the crowd. Many of the songs that Forchhammer penned were inspired by the loss of his father, most notably, “You’re Not There”. “It’s a Catch-22,” he shared with the crowd, “if he hadn’t passed, I never would have written these songs. There’s nothing so bad in this world that you can’t make it into something more powerful”. It’s a suspiciously scripted line, but powerful nonetheless.
During “Nice Guy”, Lukas Graham’s funkyness was given the chance to shine, complete with a proper brass off battle and excellent drum solo. It’s also of note that during this song, both Forchhammer and Larsson took off their shirts and proceeded to attempt a chest bump. The crowd seemed very familiar with “Mama Said’, as they loosened up and started to sway along. This worked as a perfect warm-up to the infectiously danceable “Strip No More”.
A simple piano and vocal intro to “Funeral” commenced the first offering of the band’s two-song encore. It’s fascinating how a song about death can be so invigorating, but as the rest of the band – drums, brass, bass layered back into the mix, one couldn’t help but feel like they were sharing something incredible poignant with the rest of the crowd.
Finally, the moment many members of the crowd were anxiously awaiting arrived (as referenced by the number of cellphone camera screens that immediately lit up during the song’s opening notes). Lukas Graham’s introspective and emotional ballad, “7 Years” skyrocketed the group to international notoriety, and even garnered nominations in three key Grammy categories – Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. The song, though incredibly straightforward in structure and lyricism, excels in its simplicity and rising tension. Though a ballad at heart, the song is delivered with an urgency and energy that served as a powerful ending to a memorable show.