Photos by Dakota Arsenault
It would be a disservice to call Charlotte Day Wilson an up-and-comer because that would imply that she has yet to arrive; that’s not true. Wilson is here, poised and confident, and on April 6th inside the sold-out Danforth Music Hall she proved that she is the next in a long line of contemporary Toronto superstars.
After an opening set from James Tillman, a melancholy soul performer out of Maryland well deserving of his own headlining show, the room filled with people eager to see Wilson up close and personal. The crowd was young and very Torontonian, a sea of black jeans, man buns and beanies seeking a new hometown hero. When the time comes her band takes the stage to consistent cheers that roar to new life when Wilson herself walks on last. With little more than a pause she launches into the title track off her new EP, “Stone Woman.” The lights, all warm golden tones that capture her in a single spotlight, echo the cover art of the album. There’s a minimalism to the staging that continues throughout the night; I hear someone behind me say that they’re “like a high school band setting up,” not with derision but an appreciation for a group who isn’t there to put on airs, just to make good music.
Charlotte Day Wilson, mind you, is more than lead vocals. For “Doubt” she wields a guitar, leading into an impressive solo; in “Funeral” she reaches for a saxophone and lets out riff after perfect riff. She seems to reach into every corner of R&B, not satisfied with singing alone but needing a hand in every aspect of the creation of sound. After her song “Nothing New” Wilson even takes a moment to remind the crowd of her part in each songs production, going beyond her presence on stage that night. This isn’t just a face and a name; this is a creator, in every sense of the word.
Excitement ripples through the crowd as she begins “In Your Eyes”, her collaboration with BADBADNOTGOOD, and as “Falling Apart” unfolds couples gravitate towards each other for a private moment in a crowded room. The constant, however, is the silence of a crowd more concerned with listening to the music than making their own voices heard. When she walks off stage after “Work” the crowd cuts through the silence, unleashing their voices and begging for a return she eventually offers. The two songs that follow show Wilson alone on stage, playing the piano she brought from her childhood home. The first is an unreleased song dedicated to her grandparents, the second a cover of Erykah Badu’s “Out My Mind, Just In Time.” Both songs are deeply personal, both an expression of overwhelming emotion, and at one point Wilson gets choked up trying to put into words how much this night (the first of two sold-out Danforth shows) means to her. Seeing her this way, strong, vulnerable and embraced by the city she calls home, it was hard not to feel just as grateful for her as she is for us.