Montreal’s Half Moon Run made a winning return to Ottawa with a pair of sold-out shows at Algonquin Commons Theatre on Nov. 25 and Nov. 26.
It was the final stop of their 2023 world tour, which kicked off in England on Sept. 9.
The ACT was filled with all ages of fans, family and friends.
This was Ottawa native and frontman Devon Portielje’s homecoming show.
The whole vibe of the show was intimate and friendly. Friends swayed, sang and danced with very few phones in sight.
Billie Marten opened the night with a solo set, her debut in Ottawa.
A soft voice full of authenticity in her songs and banter in between, Marten recalled times working in pubs in London while she grew as a songwriter.
Sipping her whiskey, Marten asked, “Anybody Irish? I’m not,” she joked with the crowd. “Whisky is medicinal.”
The intermission brought happy concertgoers to the bar.
“The first act was awesome, but we can’t wait for Half Moon Run to start,” said Tara Lerer.
“Half Moon Run is why we came here but we’re leaving the opening act happy. We’re ready to hear our group now,” said Vicky McNeil before scurrying back to their seats.
Half Moon Run solidified the warm, community feeling by dedicating Heartbeat to a pair of local friends who the band lost this past summer as well as another dedication to Portielje’s adorable nephew sitting in the audience.
Being a smaller venue, ACT provided the setting for a much more intimate concert than previous concerts at Bluesfest and TD Place.
Sheila Clark agreed. She is the manager of sponsorship development with Bluesfest and City Folk Festivals and an alumna of the business administration program.
“They always put on a good show,” said Clark. “Remember the rain when they played last year at Bluesfest? They waited it out and put on a great show anyhow.”
The coziness of the ACT wrapped the crowd in a sense of familiarity and a snug sentiment to accompany Half Moon Run’s reflective songs, which had the crowd swaying and singing every word.
Their harmonies were just as perfectly fused, and with the support of their string quartet, was fitting their sincere acoustic numbers and their upbeat songs.
There were instrument switches mid-song, often multiple times. Portielje alone played acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, drum, cymbal, maracas and, at one point, even played piano with the head of his guitar.
Just as skilled, Conner Molander spent most of the show between acoustic and electric guitars, bass, keyboards and a quick stint on the drums, plus some harmonica.
Dylan Phillips stayed behind the modified drum kit that included its own keyboard for most of the set but came out front to join his bandmates for an acoustic rendition of Devil May Care.
Having played most of their hits already, the band launched their encore with the help of opener Billie Marten for an incredible cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams before closing the show with Need It, Favourite Boy and the hit that launched it all, Full Circle.
“I’ve been following Half Moon Run for about seven or eight years. They’re different, so good live and local,” said Lauren Laroque.
“I’d never heard of the opener, Billie Marten, but I’ll be searching her on Spotify or YouTube. Playlist adds, for sure,” said Laroque.
Staying after the show to talk to new fans, Marten shared one of her secrets of being at ease on stage.
“If I’m relaxed the crowd is relaxed, so for me, it’s to stay in that frame of mind. It makes the whole show better,” said Marten.
Marten’s relaxed demeanour set the tone for an unforgettable performance from her and Half Moon Run, and perhaps it hints at the incredible lineup and experiences awaiting Ottawa at Bluesfest this summer.