Safia Nolin Theatre Outremont, Montreal QC, October 18

Safia Nolin Theatre Outremont, Montreal QC, October 18
Photo: Nadia Davoli
October nights are enveloped in darkness earlier, and the cold is starting to seep into bones. Out of a deeper gloom materialized Safia Nolin, body veiled by a bedsheet. The audience rippled with uncertain titters. "Je m'excuse pour mon corps," howled her ghost, standing in a forest of prisms that jutted from the stage like shards of an enormous mirror.
This wasn't the first time the crowd had seen Safia; she'd hopped onstage to introduce her opener, La Force, 30 minutes prior, with a sweet "Allô," as though she weren't the reason everyone was there. Now, draped in white, her smoke-hands gripping the microphone, she was her own haunting. It was a kind of non-joke — she knew she looked nothing like a phantom, obviously, but maybe there's no other way to declare, "Je sais que c'est moi la plus laide," to even touch that kind of ugliness inside, without some kind of cover. Still, she pushed her way out of the sheet in the final verse, fully alive and shedding another shadow.
"Ça va tu ben," she exhaled after it was over, to a theatre-wide giggle. Though she often had this effect, she rarely addressed the audience directly, deferring instead to her stage companion, Joseph Marchand, with whom she jested incessantly. They discussed pasta and internet undie purchases; she called him on the phone anytime he left the stage for a song. They sang "Bonne Fête" to someone named Rosalie, and one fan's persistent "bravo's" quickly became an inside joke.
If this all sounds a little silly, it was a little silly, which was the point. In the same way that Safia found comfort under cotton and bandmate banter, she was offering the audience a chance to breathe, even laugh. These weren't the kind of songs to bop along to. It was depleting to watch as Safia stripped herself apart. She, Joseph, we all needed something to hold us between songs. So she handed us moments of flickering levity as she drew us through her weedy depths, sometimes with her back to us or cloaked in darkness entire, her clarion voice piercing like wind.