It is amazing, given the frequency of our visits to the GTA, how there are a handful of well-established musical acts from that part of the province that we have not yet been fortunate enough to experience live.  Household names such as Terra Lightfoot, The Arkells, and Whitehorse have proven to be very elusive for us to date, even though two of these acts have performed in the US Northeast on several occasions.  When we discovered that Whitehorse would be wrapping up the US portion of their current tour in both Vienna, VA, and Philadelphia, PA, tickets to the VA show were quickly secured (we are closer to DC than Philly).  Making the two hour drive south into the outskirts of DC on a recent Wednesday evening, the chance to finally see this duo was finally turning into a reality.

Adding an additional boost to this show was the announcement just a few weeks prior that London, ON native Ken Yates would be opening both US shows for Whitehorse.  We last had the opportunity to see Ken back in the summer (ironically, at another VA venue) and welcomed the chance to hear his music once more, and hopefully congratulate him on his recent engagement.  Opening with the title track from his most recent album, “Huntsville,” Ken would go on to perform six acoustic numbers for the growing crowd.  We shared in the joys of his tales once again, from his white-hot anger laced “Keep Your Head Down,” to the somewhat odd hosts at a house show in “Madeline’s Table.”

The true highlight, however, was the story of his fishing pole during his ‘portage’ with his girlfriend (the fishing pole was inadvertently left behind, which unbeknownst to his companion was the hidden location of the engagement ring); which captivated each and every person in the room.  As Ken prepared to wrap up his set, he told a tale of how grateful he was to be opening for Whitehorse, explaining that he started out working for their record label cutting and pasting Whitehorse tour dates onto promotional posters.  Ever humble, Ken acknowledged the opportunity to share the stage with his peers, and after closing with a great rendition of “Leave Me The Light On,” he was rewarded with a well-deserved ovation.

Ken Yates Set List:

  1. Huntsville
  2. I Don’t Remember This Town
  3. Roll Me On Home
  4. Keep Your Head Down
  5. Madeline’s Table
  6. Leave Me The Light On

Once Whitehorse made their entrance onto the stage, the duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland received a very positive response.  The crowd had increased, but there was still plenty of space available to simply walk up to the front of the stage for the best views in the house.  Promoting their brand new “Panther In The Dollhouse” release, Whitehorse would perform select tracks from both this and their previous “Leave No Bridge Unburned” albums.  A few popular hits from their earlier days would be woven into a fifteen track set list too, along with a cover of a Neil Young classic track.  Opening with “You Get Older,” Whitehorse demonstrated immediately that the lack of any supporting band would not diminish the quality of musicianship for this show.  Doucet comfortably switched between guitars on occasion, while McClelland worked her magic between both acoustic guitar and bass.  Both displayed a flawless chemistry that one would expect between spouses that happen to be well-travelled professional musicians too.

I was delighted to see that those around the front of the stage were more than familiar with some of the material, actively singing along to the better known tracks such as “Devil’s Got A Gun” and the recent single, “Boys Like You.”  The lesser known ‘new’ material, such as “Nighthawks” and “Die Alone” received equally popular feedback too.  Whether opting for an upbeat number, or a slower paced track, the lyrics were enunciated well by both artists, and the tight instrumentation remained true to their studio versions.  With such a successful formula, Whitehorse were the center of attention for their entire set.  After a rocking rendition of their popular hit “Downtown,” Luke and Melissa closed the show with an amazing cover version of Neil Young’s “Ohio” (although Luke would tease with an intro more akin to the likes of Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road”).

Having knocked out ten songs in what seemed like no time at all, the duo returned for their encore.  Doucet discussed their appreciation for the power of a ‘great protest song’ such as “Ohio,” and introduced the room to their interpretation of a modern protest anthem, a track from the new album titled “Epitaph In Tongues.”  McClelland took her turn to address the crowd too, with tales of how they reworked former solo tracks and gave them the Whitehorse treatment.  Ever hopeful for “Passenger 24” at this moment, the duo opted instead to perform “Broken,” a song that Luke wrote with a former girlfriend in mind.  Melissa had some wonderful insights into her thoughts and motivations for reworking this one.   And with one final number left to play, it would be the popular Bruce Springsteen cover from their self-titled debut album that would close the show.

Whitehorse Set List:

  1. You Get Older
  2. Baby What’s Wrong
  3. Nighthawks
  4. Devil’s Got a Gun
  5. Sweet Disaster
  6. Emerald Isle
  7. The One I Hurt
  8. Die Alone
  9. Boys Like You
  10. Downtown
  11. Ohio (Neil Young Cover)

Encore:

  1. Epitaph In Tongues
  2. Tame As The Wilderness
  3. Broken
  4. I’m On Fire (Bruce Springsteen Cover)

~ M

Visit Ken Yates’ website.

Listen to “Huntsville” on Spotify.

Visit Whitehorse’s website.

Listen to “Panther in the Dollhouse” on Spotify.