This summer has seen the release of two new Rhye tracks, immediately launching rumours and anticipation for a new record by the R&B group fronted by Toronto singer Milosh.
Woman, their first and only LP to date, turned four earlier this year. Its minimal arrangements and excellent songwriting quickly made it a staple of the modern R&B movement, gaining more than enough fans to sell out Le National days in advance for this show presented by the Red Bull Music Academy Weekender in Montreal.
In an almost completely blacked out room, opener Charlotte Day Wilson gave an admirable performance. Her stripped down songs were well received by a jittery crowd doing their best to stay quiet and listen to the three musicians on stage; by the end, she'd won them over.
During the long wait between set, the tension was rising in the crowd; those who had never seen the headliner before were probably wondering if Rhye could match Wilson's musicianship and avoid being upstaged by the opening act. And as the lights grew dim, the crowd erupted.
Milosh and his band took the stage, launching into "Verse," an understated cut from Woman. As if to tame the excited crowd, the singer shushed softly, but he could only obtain a few seconds of silence before the theatre exploded in even louder cheers. His falsetto, both fragile and powerful, could be heard in all its nuanced glory, echoing through the room.
At various point during the show, Rhye let their quiet songs blossom into sweeping, festival-ready crescendos. On "3 Days," one of the songs given new arrangements for its live setting, Milosh joined keyboardist Ben Schwier for an epic synth solo that pushed the sound system to its limits, creating a new wave of excitement in the crowd with the unexpected dynamic shift.
They followed with a mix of fan favourites, songs from Milosh's solo repertoire and new material. "I don't know if you can tell — some of these songs you haven't heard before," explained the vocalist, confirming the long-awaited release of a new album. Members in attendance welcomed each track with enthusiasm, readily clapping to the beat whenever possible, sometimes breaking the reverential silence and eclipsing the singer's vocal dexterity with uncontainable joy — especially during Woman tracks like "Last Dance," in which Claire Courchene traded her cello for a trombone, ending the song powerfully.
"Now, here's something you do know," said Milosh as the band launched into the romantic intro of "Open," perhaps their most beloved song. Unfortunately, it was one of the rare missteps of an otherwise undeniable performance; the rearranged version fell short, diluted by an overly long organ solo that contained a couple of off notes. To make matters worse, Milosh's voice betrayed him at the beginning of the track, as if to confirm that this version was still finding its footing.
The band ended their set with a long jam and a few upbeat songs, one of which they had just learned: "We learned it today and it's coming out in two weeks," promised the singer as they introduced the bouncy new track, which they followed with the groovy "Hunger." The night ended with a swooning version of Milosh's solo track "It's Over," concluded in haunting a cappella. After an exhaustive 90 minutes set, the band saluted their ecstatic public, forgoing a traditional encore.