Peter Henry Phillips brought the heat to Montréal en Lumière

A veritable folk orchestra took over Club Soda on Thursday night

Peter Henry Phillips brought a whole slew of friends to Club Soda and scorched through two full sets, showing incredible range and poise.

I’ve only recently heard of Peter Henry Phillips and clearly I’ve been out of the loop. Hearing about him through a number of different people I decided to check out his latest record, The Origin. From the first notes of the lead-off track “The Wind”, I was immediately immersed in a rich collection of sounds bound by a unique approach to songwriting. The whole record is cover-to-cover incredible, a rare enough feat these days considering the amount of single-focused artists.

While I could write a glowing review about his record, this is a show review article. I have to admit, I was skeptical he would be able to deliver his full recorded sound in a live setting – there are 14 additional musicians listed in the album credits. Just before the show I saw he posted about a 15-piece band and I knew it was on.

Sure enough when I arrived at Club Soda the rather spacious stage was completely covered with guitars, amps, drums and an entire assortment of instruments. And subsequently it was filled with musicians who really knew how to play them. The band played through two very strong sets with its numbers fluctuating from 7 to a full 15. There was a perfect mix of intimate folk songs with just Peter and his guitar ranging to full orchestrations that were overwhelming in the best possible way. The band included two drummers, which brought a very strong sense of rhythm to his music and allowed for more intricate percussion. The two of them played together in perfect unison and were a real pleasure to watch. In fact, my eye wondered all about the stage the entire show, as every person on the stage was both very talented and entertaining to watch.

As is often the case in these types of shows, there were chairs set up right to the stage. In an otherwise phenomenal show, that stuck out as one of the drawbacks. There was so much energy coming from the band, it was just wrong to see people sitting and almost passively enjoying it. Although by the end of the show they had the entire crowd in their hand – Peter ended his tune “Nobody’s Home” by directing the entire audience as an a cappella crowd. The show came to a climax in the band’s blistering version of “Dreamcatcher”, which seemed to accurately summarize the unique beauty of the show – a pensive guitar/voice melody that slowly builds into an all-encompassing wall of folk orchestration.

I couldn’t help but compare the show to similar local acts like Patrick Watson and Half Moon Run. Take my advice, grab his new record The Origin and get out to see him live now before you have to fight the much larger crowds that are surely in his future.

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