Brett Kissel’s country charm electrifies Algonquin Commons Theatre

Canadian country artist stopped by Algonquin College on Feb. 22 during his Compass Tour
Photo: Kaitlyn Lemay
Brett Kissel shining bright on the Algonquin Commons Theatre stage on Feb. 22

Brett Kissel performed an energy-filled concert in the Algonquin Commons Theatre on Feb. 22 as part of The Compass Tour. The signer engaged with the audience the whole show and kept everyone on their feet dancing and singing along.

Natalie Graham, an advanced care paramedic student, bought tickets to the concert as a Christmas gift for her friend Renee Stocks. The pair attended the Kissel concert after a previous concert they were supposed to attend was cancelled last minute after Kissel suddenly falling ill.

“I knew [Stocks and her brother] wanted to go and we both like country,” Graham said during the intermission between opener Ben Chase’s performance and Kissel’s. “They’ve seen him a couple times and said he’s really good live and I haven’t been, so we’ve been looking forward to it.”

The girls were grabbing drinks sold outside the stage, in the E-building, getting ready for Kissel to make his return to the campus theatre.

With a confident stride, Kissel’s band took to the stage and unleashed a dynamic performance. Kissel made his entrance and kicked off their performance with his first song of the night, She Drives Me Crazy.

The audience’s screams rocked the theatre as he launched into one of his most popular hits, setting the tone for an energizing show.

The engagement Kissel and his band held with the audience breathed life into the theatre. The Alberta-born artist reached over the barricade to trade guitar picks with fans, grab signs, read them aloud and sign them.

“Oh my god this is the best night of my life, I’ve never been so happy,” said Marley Coccimigilo, a baking student who had received a guitar pick, a tee-shirt and the setlist by end of the concert.

The crowd remained spirited and engaged throughout the night, but even more through the back end of the show, which was loaded with Kissel’s most popular and high-energy songs. During Cadillac Ranch, a do-si-do-style mosh pit emerged within the crowd and the energy in the theatre erupted.

Kissel has a great appreciation for his band and made sure to display all their talents during the concert. In the middle of a song, fiddler Tyler Vollrath appeared in the aisles of the audience to give a fiddle solo.

“The energy was unbelievable,” said Vollrath after the show. “We actually played this theatre a few times and it’s always been great. We always look forward to coming to Ottawa, and in particular this theatre. The crowd was just, well, you heard it. It was screams all night long. It was awesome.”

Tyler Vollrath (left) and Xavier Leahy showcase their fiddling and guitar skills for the crowd
Tyler Vollrath (left) and Xavier Leahy showcase their fiddling and guitar skills for the crowd at the Feb. 22 show in the Algonquin Commons Theatre. Photo credit: Kaitlyn Lemay

Young guitarist Xavier Leahy was also a star of the show and he had about 10 to 15 friends and family in the stands cheering him on. Kissel found the guitarist on Instagram one day and recruited the breakout musician, who’s from Eganville, to the tour.

A healthy balance of old storytelling country and modern country pleased the audience members of all ages. From elementary school kids experiencing their first concert, to Algonquin College students, to people over 65, the entire audience stood up to dance.

The Compass Project really is celebratory of 10 years, you know, 10 years in the business, and me, my band and my agent,” Kissel said when explaining why they decided to return to the Algonquin Commons Theatre.

“We would reminisce about the venues that we loved the most,” Kissel said, remembering his first performance at Algonquin, where he opened for Dallas Smith in 2015.

He fondly described it as a “really fun show” during a time when both artists were emerging country stars.

The show opened with an intimite performance from up-and-coming country artist Ben Chase. It was the P.E.I. native’s first-time performing on an Ontario stage and the crowd welcomed him from the moment his first song started.

Chase played a few songs from his own discography and covered a few classic country hits before a brief intermission and finally, Kissel’s performance.

Fans left the theatre in high spirits and a few last-minute shoppers purchased merchandise before the booth closed.

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