Sondre Lerche / Jesse "JBM" Marchant Petit Campus, Montreal, QC September 15

Sondre Lerche / Jesse 'JBM' Marchant Petit Campus, Montreal, QC September 15
It's not surprising if you haven't heard of Sondre Lerche. Despite having released an impressive number of albums this decade, the 27-year-old Norwegian singer-songwriter has a sparse following. But those who know Lerche are loyal, and a startling number of fans packed into Petit Campus, one of Montreal's smallest venues, for a powerful performance.

Lerche performed solo, accompanying himself with acoustic and electric guitar, and played mostly songs from his new record, Heartbeat Radio. Lerche, however, is not afraid of his sizable back catalogue: new songs like the hokey-romantic "Words & Music" and the lovely "I Guess It's Gonna Rain Today" - an ode to Lerche's hometown of Bergen - matched up tremendously with old material.

But what made Lerche star-worthy is his undeniably charismatic stage presence: he is clearly at ease with a packed house, joking with the audience about his lack of French vocabulary and telling long stories about his day in Montreal. Equally engaging was his emphatic playing. Lerche attacked his guitar with gusto, his hand often fading to a blur as his strumming verged on violent.

Despite creating an impressive visual, however, the combination of heavy playing and occasional overuse of distortion and delay turned the bridge sections of many tunes into messy cacophony. Lerche was certainly at his best when playing dry electric or acoustic guitar, with highlights of the night including a supercharged version of the once-jazzy "Dead Passengers," an acoustic rendition of crowd favourite "Two Way Monologue" and the punchy new song "Heartbeat Radio."

Opener Jesse "JBM" Marchant played beautifully, but, despite his comforting style and angelic voice, his melancholy songs failed to set the right mood for Sondre Lerche's exuberant performance.