I arrived late to The Paper Kites’ concert this past Wednesday, having endured a four-hour study session for an upcoming final exam. In a panic, I rushed up the stairs of the Fairmount Theatre and stuttered my name to the woman behind the counter, praying that there had been no confusion about the guest list. The next few minutes were a blur: hand stamped, coat and bag checked, and when I finally registered my surroundings, I noticed that no artist was on the stage. It was 10:11 pm. “Late,” I thought, but was glad because it meant that I could see the whole performance, despite missing the opener Old Man Canyon. Within the next few minutes, The Paper Kites had ascended the stage to raucous cheering and clapping from the packed theater.
The venue itself is intimate, located on the corner of Fairmount and Parc in the Mile End. It was the perfect place to reflect the atmosphere and sound of The Paper Kites, especially their newest release twelvefour (see my review of the album here). The band is a five-piece from Melbourne, led by frontman Sam Bentley. They came onto the small stage with quiet professionalism, and launched into “Renegade” without introduction. The crowd swayed amicably, at times imperceptibly, save a handful of fangirls in the fringes of the crowd chatting excitedly in rapid-fire French and grabbing at each other.
The Paper Kites have toured in North America only once before, and are still labeled as an “up-and-coming” band by many. However, they played with a polished air, as seasoned musicians completely at home with their instruments and with each other. David Powys slipped up on a guitar solo but recovered quickly with a smile, and Christina Lacy’s microphone was initially too low to make out her harmonies in a number of songs. Other than these small mishaps the concert went off without a hitch, and it was refreshing to be reminded that often, live music can be complicated.
Bentley spoke after playing two or three songs, speaking in halted and rehearsed French, before switching to English. The audience applauded his attempts and gave encouraging yells before he introduced “Bleed Confusion,” stating that “it’s got a little story to it, which I’ll sing now.” This was clearly not the end of his goal for audience participation; after performing “Bloom,” an older track that had the audience giddy with excitement, he challenged us to remain completely silent for the next song. In many concerts I’ve gone to, this tactic has been used by artists mostly in desperation; Bentley, however, had an expression akin to a mad scientist, admitting that “I’ve never tried this before, let’s see if it’ll work.” It did – this is Canada, after all – and the room fell silent almost immediately, with plenty of shushing reverberating through the venue. Bentley, accompanied only by Lacy, then started “Neon Crimson,” pausing initially to tune his guitar. This song was a beautiful solo, and the silence in the audience only magnified this. All ears and eyes were on Bentley.
He also took the silence as an opportunity to make a long intro to the next song, also a solo. Dedicating the song, “Paint,” to long-distance relationships everywhere, he sang a deeply intimate and emotional song that had the audience rapt. This signaled the end of the solo work, however. The next few tracks were again with the full band, and they really came to life in the last twenty minutes of performing. A fantastic rendition of “Turns Within Me, Turns Without Me” bled straight into “Relevator Eyes,” and the band exploded to life for “I’m Lying To You Cause I’m Lost.”
The Paper Kites finished the hour-long set with the slow-burning final track “Too Late,” hammering home the intimate, late-night feel of twelvefour. Bentley announced that there would be no encore, which was refreshingly honest. Thankfully, no audience members acted out or complained; we were all adults here, coming together for some good music in an intimate, amicable setting. The Paper Kites did not disappoint with their new album, and seeing them perform it live was just as good a musical experience as listening to it in the station. I can only hope that these Aussies come to Montreal again soon; they will most certainly be welcomed back with open arms.
–Review by Juliana Van Amsterdam