Kevin Devine Mills Hardware, Hamilton ON, April 11

Kevin Devine Mills Hardware, Hamilton ON, April 11
Photo: Benjamin Bush
While a room full of Hamiltonians may not take kindly to their city being called "Toronto's Brooklyn," they made Brooklyn's own Kevin Devine feel right at home on Wednesday night. "This is the best show of the tour!" he genuinely told the comfortably full and engaged crowd at Mills Hardware. With only three shows remaining on Devine's Beyond the Wall tour of Ontario, plus Montreal, the extraordinary warmth of his Hamilton performance may be hard to replicate.
A smile was curled on Devine's lips for the entire set, even when the lyrics he sang were laced with heartache, loneliness, and frustration. Armed with an acoustic guitar, he required nothing more to command the stage and, in turn, the respectful attention of his audience. The set list covered a plethora of Devine's rich, solo discography, including cuts from Make the Clocks Move, Put Your Ghost to Rest, Bulldozer and Instigator, his most recent effort (not to mention, a stellar performance of "It Never Stops" by Bad Books, Devine's project with Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra).
No matter how much time has passed since each original release, their overall messages and the tones that they set were impactful. Devine isn't one to sugarcoat anything in his songwriting. His introspective and raw takes on themes of loss, addiction and political criticism resonate so deeply because of his unabashed honesty. On stage, Devine's demeanor is gentle yet powerful. Some songs saw him poised at the mic, softly rocking on his heels, while others found him making strides around the length of the stage. He effortlessly interacted with the audience, both during and in-between performances, making eye contact around the room and taking personal requests such as the heart-wrenching "Longer That I'm Out Here."
An artist who is both humble and gracious has the ability to positively transform an entire room, and that's exactly what Kevin Devine did. Having spent over 15 years in the industry, one might expect (and even understand) if the novelty of touring had worn off. Watch him perform to a captivated crowd, however, and any such assumptions will quickly be squashed.