Concert Review: Common Holly, Phoebe Bridgers, February 28, Velvet Underground

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As she took to the stage at Velvet Underground on Wednesday night, Montreal’s Common Holly (aka Brigitte Naggar) noted that this was her first show in 3 months. “I’m feeling a bit nervous, a bit rusty,” she said. “But you guys seem very welcoming.” While she may have been feeling rusty, she certainly didn’t sound out of practice as she ran through a set that was split between songs off of last year’s Playing House and some newer compositions.

After opening up with a couple of solo numbers, Naggar was joined on various instruments for the remainder of the night by her album’s producer, Devon Bate, who added lots of interesting sounds and textures to the basic folk framework of her songs. Common Holly’s music could be somewhat reductively categorized as “sad” or “dark,” but there’s a certain lightness in her voice and delivery that makes things a bit more complex and a bit more interesting. This was exemplified in a new song “Crazy OK” which Naggar described as “kind of sad, kind of funny …feel what you wanna feel.” The most memorable moment of her set came during the final number, which I presume was called “It’s Not Real,” as she led the crowd through a singalong of the song’s main refrain while Bate recorded it all to be included on her upcoming album. It’s always a cool moment to hear a large group of people singing together as one, maybe even more so when it’s a song they’re only hearing for the first time.

Next up was the act that many in the sold out crowd were anxiously awaiting – Phoebe Bridgers. Bridgers started off her set with “Smoke Signals,” the lead track off her debut album Stranger In The Alps. As soon as she played the first notes, I overheard someone next to me remark, “Why would you start with this song? I’m gonna cry already.” It’s true, it’s just one of many of her songs that could conceivably make someone cry. Like Common Holly, Phoebe Bridgers can get pretty melancholy, but she manages to balance it out with a chill, personable stage presence and a solid sense of humour. The humour came across in certain aspects of her show, such as the pair of balloons filled with confetti that made an appearance near the end of her set and the drumhead emblazoned with her name in a typical death metal logo font. She also had a t-shirt for sale with that logo as well as one with her name accompanied by a picture of a bleach blonde Benedict Cumberbatch in his role as Julian Assange. Yes, Phoebe Bridgers’ merch game is strong.

Alongside her stellar original numbers, Bridgers also offered up a few well chosen covers into her set. In addition to Tom Petty’s “It’ll All Work Out” which she introduced with a hearty endorsement of Petty, she played Mark Kozelek’s “You Missed My Heart” before ending things off with what she referred to as “an experiment” – a cover of Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy.” That’s Phoebe Bridgers – she can start off her set with a song that makes people want to cry and end it all off with a joyful singalong.

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Posted on by Paul in Concerts

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