M. Ward RBC Bluesfest, Ottawa ON, July 10

M. Ward RBC Bluesfest, Ottawa ON, July 10
Photo: Scott Penner c. of Bluesfest
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It seemed like a questionable idea for the organizers of Ottawa's Bluesfest to set up ten rows of folding chairs in front of the tented Claridge Homes Stage in anticipation for M. Ward's set. But thanks to a competing performance by Foo Fighters on the main stage, there was hardly anyone was around to complain.
 
As the ten-day festival brought a capacity 30,000 concertgoers to LeBreton Flats to see Dave Grohl and company, M. Ward welcomed around a hundred people to witness his first Ottawa performance in seven years. But just as the Portland, OR-based singer-guitarist walked onstage with his four-piece band, the entire chair situation proved all for naught, as a (relatively) sizable chunk of fans stood up and jammed themselves up against the front barrier, forcing many of the older onlookers to join them at the front of the stage.
 
The sight of 30-something indie rockers and 60-year old festivalgoers standing in unison immediately lent a smile to Ward's face, as he launched into exuberant set openers, "Requiem" and "Chinese Translation," from his celebrated 2006 LP, Post-War.
 
Moving into material from his latest LP, What a Wonderful Industry (which was surprise-released just two days earlier), Ward and his band members' incredibly tight renditions made up for the audience unfamiliarity. But Ward would dedicate much of the set to older songs, immediately jumping back into material from the 12-year-old Post-War, while running through renditions of the album's title track and deep cut "Rollercoaster" before moving into tempered versions of "Outta My Head" and "Vincent O'Brien" from his 2003 LP, Transfiguration of Vincent.
 
After announcing to the now-receding crowd that he would wrap up his set so everyone, "can go catch the Foo Fighters," Ward upped the on-stage energy, ripping through some additional early material that included "Four Hours in Washington" and yet another Post-War track, "Poison Cup." Closing off his 55-minute set with the beautiful, waltz-like "I Get Ideas," M. Ward gave the crowd what he imagined they wanted all along: the old favourites, and lots of time to catch the Foo Fighters.