It’s been 7 years since I last saw Seattle based singer/songwriter Noah Gundersen. Then, he had a lot less tattoos. Me, a lot less facial hair. In that time he’s gone on to release four more albums and work with Glorietta. His latest, Lover, hit our headphones at the end of August. It’s a stunning record that deserves to be on every end of year best of list, with poignant lyrics, incredible production and proof that this is an artist at the top of his game. So how does it compare on the live stage? I headed along to his set in Toronto last night to find out.
He was supported at the show by his brother Jonny G, who drew an impassioned response from the crowd. Noah later mentioned he was jealous of his sibling having had a bra thrown at him, which he played into the song “Watermelon”.
Noah opened his set with the stunning track that opens his latest record, “Robin Williams”, with the man himself’s voice leading into the track as Noah and his three piece hit the stage. The audience was respectful and silent on what is one of the most powerful tracks on the record, and it made for a spellbinding opening. “Crystal Creek” followed, then some ‘dramatic tension’ led into the synth laden “Heavy Metals” off his 2017 album White Noise. The song was well fleshed out, as his beautiful vocals soared over the well mixed trio, with some notably excellent guitar work, and Gundersen on keys. He jumped between keys and guitar during the set, sitting on the latter for the catchy and fan favourite single “Lose You”.
The set up was simple, with some extra stand up lights scattered around the stage to add to the atmosphere, well timed to the music. But for the most part, the music was left to speak for itself.
“Out of Time” was a highlight of the new record and live, with Noah on his knees giving it his all; supreme vocals and energy to say the least. Older song “Jesus, Jesus” made an appearance, with Noah playing it solo on the acoustic. Then he performed a stellar rendition of the Joni Mitchell classic “A Case of You”, dedicated to Canada, and briefly saw the disco ball used to its full potential.
”Annie”, a Young in the City song, a project which Noah shares with one of the members of his backing band, followed and impressed the die hard fans in the crowd. “The Sound” was rockin, and “So What” beautiful, as was “Send The Rain (To Everyone)”, which grew in a hypnotic, cinematic procession (think Explosions in the Sky) before erupting in sound.
“Bad Desire” got a bit of a singalong happening, for the first time in the set – and brother Jonny G came up during a pause to count the song back in. “Wild Horses” was yet another a beautiful track he said is about reminding us all that people on the other side of politics are people too, and he wrote the song to remind himself of that. “Kamakazie” was a beautiful track too (I notice a trend), and the main set closed with the heavier title track off his latest album, “Lover”.
From start to finish, Noah’s stage bravado ensured he held the crowd in the palm of his hand; engaging with them well and having some playful banter along the way. He’s an accomplished songwriter who lets the songs grow in the live environment with a great band, stunning vocals, and with a diverse setlist ensures no fan leaves disappointed. And as he came back on for an encore with “All My Friends”, Jonny adding some percussion too, it was clear he only left the crowd wanting more.