Whitehorse, a Hamilton-based folk rock pair, put on an incredible show Saturday night for the POP Montreal festival. The Polaris prize nominees performed at the Ukrainian Federation along with concert openers Ingrid Gatin and Mike O’Brien. The husband-and-wife duo behind Whitehorse, Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, have an undeniable chemistry that inspires their music. The established singer-songwriters put their solo careers on hold to work together in 2011. Whitehorse performed songs from their most recent album, released in 2012, entitled The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss. Doucet’s blistering guitar and McClelland’s delicate sultry vocals made for a mesmerizing performance.
In their opening number, the couple started from scratch to build what would develop into a smoky rendition of “Devil’s Got a Gun” by using a floor tom looping device to layer tracks from a variety of instruments, plucked from what looked like a costume trunk. Shivering maracas, household pans, and old telephone receivers were just some examples. The end product sounded like nothing less than a full band, as they moved from setting the percussive foundations of their song to adding guitar and bass, topped with moody vocal harmonies. Their live performance charmed with its DIY feel. Mid-set, singer McClelland let out a squeal of satisfaction, which was accidentally recorded by the looping device. Humorously, the noise proceeded to resurface in each chorus of “No Glamour in the Hammer” (“Hammer” is shorthand for Hamilton). The couple made use of the entirety of the stage space by dancing and occasionally swapping instruments. They were in constant communication as they executed the choreography of their thoughtfully crafted songs.
The end of their set earned them a standing ovation from the crowd, which they followed with an immediate demand for an encore. The older gentleman behind me yelled, “Play ‘Out Like a Lion!’”, to which I echoed a resounding “Yes please!” To the crowd’s dismay, they opted to play their smoldering rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” The song ended with the crowd joining the couple in singing the chorus a cappella. Little did the audience know this was their sneaky ploy to make a classy exit. As everyone was snapping their fingers and repeating the lyrics “I’m On Fire,” the couple set down their instruments and quietly tip-toed off stage while waving goodbye, marking the end of a close-to-perfect concert experience.