A couple years ago at the Vancouver Folk Fest, I went to go see a workshop and discovered Hillsburn, who I liked enough to make sure I saw their full set that weekend, too. Flash forward this weekend, their first time playing headlining a show in town, at the Biltmore Cabaret, coinciding with a recent release of the "deluxe" version of last year's album The Wilder Beyond.
The Haligonian five-piece took the stage with the first song off the newer album, the soaring and intense "Strange Clouds", which started off the set with a bang. Vocals were split between Rosanna Burrill -- who also played violin -- as well as her brother Clayton and songwriter Paul Aarntzen, with songs like "Sun Ought To Shine" providing stellar harmonies between the three. Or the darker and melancholic "With The Larks", which built to a huge ending, their three voices bursting off the stage, giving me goosebumps (and likely also the guy near me whose reaction was a stunned "holy shit!!").
Rosanna was definitely the most energetic and expressive of the three, moving around the stage and going up to each member of the band throughout the set and singing with (or even just at) them.
They ran through tracks from their two albums, highlights including the more upbeat "Cover It Up"; the boisterous "Run Down" with a nice stomp & clap-along; and my favourite off the album "Young Desire", a sweeping anthem that ended the main set with Rosanna singing her absolute heart out, getting the crowd to join in on the call & response, and even jumping onto the floor and working her way through the audience.
But they were only gone a moment before popping back out for one last song, the slower and heart-wrenching "Time of Life" which built to an incredible violin solo, leaving the crowd emotionally exhausted.
Sometimes you see a band and their sound is just bigger than their venue-size, and that was absolutely the case with Hillsburn. It's going to be a crime if we never them in big theatres, venues like the Vogue.
Everything Is New
Sun Ought To Shine
Born Only To Love You
With The Larks
When We Were Young
Cover It Up
Caught In The Rain
Bury My Heart
Time Of Life