Montaigne stuns @ Black Bear Lodge, 19th November

Black Bear Lodge is quietly buzzing when I arrive around eight. First opener Yóste has just begun, his floaty electronic tracks drift over and between handfuls of people seated at booths and benches against the walls, talking in hushed voices and sipping craft beer. Yóste‘s sound is subtle and unassuming, pairing dainty synth melodies with deeper bass riffs and interesting compositions. A haunting cover of Vance Joy‘s Georgia is a standout, featuring husky vocals and slightly glitchy beats, gently enchanting the audience. It’s a sweetly enticing start to a momentous evening.

I slip out between openers to get noodles and get back just in time for the second set (no judgement please, the heart wants what it wants). Sophie Lowe has instant stage presence, grabbing attention with her mischievous smile and heartfelt vocal performance. She particularly shines in a cover of Robyn‘s With Every Heartbeat, when her strong, clear voice compliments an interesting instrumental build with heavy bass and drums. Her latest single, Pink Flowers, injects some RnB (and major sex appeal) into the set, demonstrating Sophie’s variety and endless watchability. The crowd grows steadily, edging closer to the stage as the clock ticks toward the main performance.

By the time Montaigne enters the stage, the place is packed to the rafters. I squeeze to the front just in time to see her swagger onstage, oozing effortless cool in simple black jeans and a singlet. Her confidence surrounds her in a haze, the audience immediately surrender themselves to her showmanship, facing her with trusting eyes. Her band setup is simple and effective: bass, keys, drums, and her on guitar, with little tampering and electronic input. It comes across raw and refreshing. As she launches into song, the audience ahhs as their trust is confirmed; her voice arcs and dips with utter ease and comfort despite the enormous range featured in her songs. I had always thought her signature vocality – choppy and distinct a la Regina Spektor – must have been painful on the vocal chords, but it becomes clear that she could not sing any other way.

A Cinematic Plea for an End is one of the first songs of the set, but is totally breathtaking. Montaigne‘s echoing vocals over simple piano parts fill the room, drawing all eyes to her as she performs the song intensely, viscerally. You would almost imagine she was acting it rather than playing, but for the intimacy she projects. This incredible performance style continues throughout the set; she howls with indignation during Pontius of the Past, aches with longing during Life, and jerks wildly during I’m a Fantastic Wreck. In between tracks, she chats comfortably with the audience, making us laugh and feel at ease, as if she’s an old friend. I find myself thinking that she must have been born for this, every part of her streamlined to perform. She appears honest and genuine both in her manner and musicality, connecting with every member of the adoring crowd.

Ending with the new single, Clip My Wings, it’s clear Montaigne has charmed us all. Both casual and commanding, she puts on one hell of a show – in the space of an hour, I go from occasional listener to slightly starstruck super-fan. I can say with confidence that Montaigne puts on one of the best shows I’ve seen all year.

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