Whitney / Sam Evian Lee's Palace, Toronto ON, October 15

Whitney / Sam Evian Lee's Palace, Toronto ON, October 15
Photo: Rick Clifford
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"We're all kings at Lee's Palace" quips Sam Evian between songs. That little joke sort of describes the atmosphere at Lee's — one of earnest, honest, wholesome and fun music. From the groovy jamming of Sam Evian to the heartbreaking loveliness of Whitney, positive love vibes were found throughout. Sam Evian and co., from New York, bounced through a number of sun-soaked tunes, showing all the way how much fun it was to play music. They revelled in how rad the riffs sounded, their jittering bodies betraying their stoic faces. Sam Evian and band let themselves get lost in the grooves they created, building up momentum until a glittering guitar solo or piercing synth line.

When Whitney took the stage, the positivity remained, but changed direction to a more intimate, warm feeling. The lights were brought down, adding a layer of quiet to the packed house. Add to this Julien Ehrlich's bashful charisma, his honest appreciation for the crowd, and the band's giddy excitement at playing one of the largest rooms in their career, and the atmosphere in the room was one of love and appreciation from both parties, the band and the crowd. It was incredibly intimate, even though the place was filled, giving the night a feeling of familiarity even though it was the band's first time in Toronto.

Whitney ripped right into one of their hookiest numbers, "Dave's Song" from their debut record Light Upon the Lake. The entire night was made up of songs from that record, with a few exceptions, such as a lively cover of Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You." Much like their new record, the show concentrated on many aspects of love, both being in and out of love and everything in between. The band played with such laid-back confidence, it was infectious, causing the crowd to move and sway and laugh and holler. Fully in control of the pace of the evening, Whitney would sway through faster, riff-filled tunes like "The Falls" to groovy, slower songs like "On My Own," which Ehrlich called a "reggae song about love."

Other highlights include the sun-soaked "Golden Days," with the crowd singing along in joyous refrain, the jazz-tinged instrumental "Red Moon" featuring Sam Evian joining in on the guitar solo fun and the band's "last song," the boot-stomping, heart-warming "Follow," which was played with such exuberance that smiles were permanently stuck on many concertgoers' faces.

The encore might have been the most magical part of the night, with Whitney performing the soft and sombre title track "Light Upon the Lake," followed by the only dance song of the night, a cover of NRBQ's "Magnet." Whitney closed out the show with their song of the summer, and the song that much of the crowd was waiting for, "No Woman." The whole audience joined in singing, adding another layer of pure loveliness, the band grinning and blushing, overcome with the positivity.

The world isn't a very nice place right now, but for the brief time we spent together, Whitney made sure that our worries melted away.