Published Jun 09, 2015It's been nearly two years since Canadian-Danish R&B duo Rhye performed in Montreal, and my, how things have changed. Their set at the Montreal International Jazz Festival in 2013 — at the much larger Montreal Métropolis — may not have been the best setting for their brand of hushed R&B, but they've clearly amassed new fans since then, selling out the Théâtre Corona and attracting a very vocal and passionate following.
They came onstage after a decent and largely effective opening set by indie pop band HAERTS, who managed to delight most people in attendance, but the crowd was evidently patiently waiting for Milosh (partner Robin Hannibal does not perform as part of the live setup). Their band — drums, trombone, bass, keys, and strings — slowly made their way onto the darkened stage followed by Milosh, who casually walked to the middle of the stage basked in purple light and clad in a simple grey sweatshirt.
Before even a note of "Verse" was played, the fans had already been won over, resulting in one of the night's many snap-along and clap-along finales. Rhye quickly followed up with "3 Days," during which Milosh made use of the snare drum and hi-hat at his disposal. It seemed like Milosh was somewhat distracted, though. After a beautiful rendition of their hit song "The Fall," he apologized for technical difficulties that were unnoticeable to the audience, but which demonstrated the band's dedication to perfection.
Milosh's vocals on "Major Minor Love" were not only gorgeous, but somehow better than on record, imbued with more warmth and character. Meanwhile, drummer Zach Morillo showed off his impressive restraint, playing with a subtlety and deftness that perfectly accompanied the lush strings and Milosh's soft falsetto.
Milosh took the time to tell the audience how happy he was to be back and how much he loves Montreal, calling it "really one of the best cities of the world," before informing us that, barring any real deadline, they'll take this opportunity to drag out their songs for as long as they can and want. He was clapping along with the audience, taking it all in, and looking immensely happy — as was his band — before launching into "Shed Some Blood." He then took off his sweatshirt to perform "Last Dance," which included an arresting trombone solo by multi-instrumentalist Claire Courchene, yet another massively talented musician joining Rhye on stage.
This was one of the set's many strong suits: other than the full band, there were absolutely no bells and whistles to the performance — just great showmanship by supremely proficient players. Milosh was constantly walking around on stage during the longer musical sequences, calling attention to the work of his partners, while sometimes jumping on keys with pianist Ben Schwier or offering some drum work with Morillo. Every song was turned into a full-blown jam, to the delight of both the musicians and the audience.
Given that their debut album is only ten tracks long, and they've yet to release new music since, their set was padded with a few choice cuts from Milosh's solo discography, which were a perfect complement to Rhye's material. "The City," a song actually written about Montreal, could have easily been included on Woman. And "Hear In You" allowed violinist Thomas Lea to really shine, showcasing his enviable skills.
As soon as the first few notes of "Open" kicked off, it became clear it would be one of the night's many highlights, with the group indulging the crowd with a ten-minute, downtempo musical voyage, including Lea's string work again taking centre stage. The remainder of the set included some more Milosh solo material, with every song warranting yet another wild ovation.
The night ended with an experiment Milosh and company attempted the last time they performed in Montreal, to mixed results. Asking the crowd to remain very quiet, especially for the end of the song, the group began "It's Over" — another Milosh solo track off his 2006 release Meme — offering a extremely soft a cappella finale, before slowly taking their leave, just as they'd entered.
And while yet another ovation warranted an encore, the lights turned on and the spell was broken, leaving revellers stunned and satisfied.