Aidan Knight @ Rio Theatre -- 10/27/12

It only took one listen for Aidan Knight's new album Small Reveal to slide itself into my theoretical list of favourite albums of the year. So I was, of course, excited to see him live for the first time since the album came out, and especially in a venue like the Rio Theatre. The soft seat movie theatre seemed like a perfect place to experience Aidan Knight -- whose name now represents the full band -- and he had brought along a couple artists that I had been meaning to hear more of.

Andy Shauf was the first of those artists. He started the night off, taking the stage alone and sitting only with his guitar and a collection of soft and sad, melancholic yet beautiful songs, with the highlights being "Hometown Hero" and "Jesus, She's A Good Girl", both from his upcoming album, The Bearer of Bad News.
He also had some awkward-yet-charming banter worthy of opening for Aidan Knight, as he chatted between songs, even taking questions from some fans up at the front. Shauf was certainly engaging, but the tone of his songs was kind of the same throughout his short set, and I think he definitely would have benefited from a backing band to fill out his sound.
Though full band or no, I'll be sure to catch him next time he comes through town.

Leif Vollebekk was up next, also taking the stage alone, starting off with his guitar and harmonica and a bit more of a bluesy vibe. After a few songs, he went over to the upright piano for a few songs, including a cover of Tom Waits' "Picture In A Frame", and then it was back to the guitar for an impromptu poll over who to cover next. Sigur Rós won out, and with a little bit of looping, he did a really nice cover of "Heysátan", bow and all.
He played a few more of his own songs, including one specifically dedicated to those who had recently suffered heartbreak, before capping off the set off with yet another cover, "Just For A Thrill" from Ray Charles.

It wasn't long then before the curtains parted, and with the swelling of some strings, the Small Reveal trailer came on the big screen and Aidan Knight and his Friendly Friends took the stage. They immediately launched in to the soaring "Dream Team" which build to a huge ending, setting the tone for the rest of the night. Most of the set focused on the new album, and along with his endearingly awkward stage banter, Aidan charmed the crowd with song that were rich & lush, many of which built to grand endings of swirling guitars and keyboards and horns.
Part way through the set the rest of the band took leave of the stage and Aidan turned down his guitar, stepped off mic, to the very front of the stage, to play "Margaret Downe". His unamplified voice filled the theatre for an absolutely heartbreaking and beautiful performance that left very few dry eyes in the house.
The mood was soon brought back up as the band came back, and a couple songs later they had nearly the entire sold out theatre singing along to the unabashedly joyous "Jasper", and after a bad great pun about naming their genre "Grand Folk" thanks to songs named "Magic Cupboards" and "Knitting Something Nice", Aidan ended with another sing along, "Creatures Great & Small".
But of course that wasn't the end as they came back for another pair of songs that climb to grandiose endings, "Friendly Fires" and "North South East West", to somehow top everything else that night and bring the whole show to a gorgeous ending.

It was an amazing show all around, and Aidan specifically seemed much more confident than I had ever seen him on stage. He's always been great live, but he and the band were more cohesive than ever, and weren't afraid to try new things with old songs.

Dream Team, A Mirror, Singer Songwriter, You Will See The Good In Everyone, Altar Boys, Margaret Downe, Lambics, Sorrows, Jasper, Magic Cupboards, Knitting Something Nice, Creatures Great & Small.
(encore) Friendly Fires, North East South West.