Julie Byrne The Great Hall, Toronto ON, July 18

Julie Byrne The Great Hall, Toronto ON, July 18
Photo: Stephen McGill
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It's not often that you go to a show in Toronto and find yourself amongst an audience as quiet as the one gathered for Julie Byrne last night (July 18). Yet, when Julie Byrne took to the venue's classically gorgeous stage, the only other sound in the room was the creaking of floorboards.
 
The Buffalo, NY native released her most recent album, the sparse and stunning Not Even Happiness, to a flood of adoring praise back in January of this year. The 26-year-old's delicate style of contemporary folk is accentuated by her unique guitar tunings and picking patterns, her live performance even more intimate and vulnerable than her recordings. To have the entire audience respect your work enough to just shut up and listen is no easy feat, but Byrne made it seem effortless.
 
Armed with just an acoustic guitar, Byrne took to the stage illuminated by the dimmed glow of stage lights and took a seat. Then, she transported the audience far away from the bustling city streets that loomed just outside and into her own peaceful realm. The addition of a synthesizer courtesy of Your Friend's Taryn Miller helped to fill out Byrne's skeletal sound, sending warm waves throughout the room, and Portland, OR singer-songwriter Johanna Warren, who set the night's evocative tone early on with her gentle and raw opening performance, offered hauntingly beautiful backing vocals on a couple of numbers.
 
It was Byrne's voice, though, that was the spotlight of the entire performance; it shone particularly on standout tracks like the appropriately titled "Follow My Voice" and "Natural Blue," an ethereal hymn to the mysterious workings of inner peace.
 
Somewhere in the set, Byrne finished a song and immediately erupted into joyous laughter with Miller in a moment that felt genuine and connected. Sharing in this exchange of pure and simple bliss between friends felt like experiencing a gift of your own; it was an accurate manifestation of the emotion Julie Byrne evokes with every note of her captivating live performance.