Cruising down Main Street with an old friend on a summer night was perhaps the most fitting way to arrive at Whitney’s concert. After all, Whitney is composed of childhood friends whose debut album embodies the spirit of whimsical summer nights. Unsurprisingly, the show sold out at the last minute, leaving the Cobalt packed and steamy.
Michael Rault, an Edmontonian, kicked off the show with a powerful rock ‘n’ roll set. It was evident that Rault and his thoroughly mustachioed band cared deeply about the quality of their show — they took their time doing their soundcheck, ensuring that each instrument possessed the right finesse. Donning a rainbow gradient t-shirt with shaggy dark hair falling over his face, Rault looked like a grungier version of Anthony Kiedis.
Musically speaking, Rault was strong but somewhat forgettable. His song-style was greatly reminiscent of 1970’s classic rock, with heavy guitar and lots of instrumental interludes. In combination with the retro ambience of the venue, it really felt as if it could have been 1978, despite Rault’s failure to exude a distinct musical imprint. Having said that, Rault and his band put on a solid live performance. He and his guitarist fed off of each other’s energies, and towards the end of his set, Rault invited Whitney’s piano player onstage, which served to increase the audience’s excitement for the main act.
Julien Ehrlich, lead singer of Whitney, is also the drummer, so the drum kit was placed front and centre. The Cobalt’s small stage made for a crowded performance, since the band is composed of six relatively tall young men with a variety of instruments. Huddled onstage, they had to fit themselves awkwardly together to accommodate to the lack of space.
Whitney opened with “Dave’s Song,” an ode to Ehrlich’s grandfather, whose name is tattooed onto the singer. Hearing the song live had me wanting to hang out with my own grandpa and get his name as a tattoo, but I responsibly resisted the impulse.
The band charismatically interacted with the audience, kindly asking for drinks throughout their set. Fulfilling their request, a round of tequila shots arrived onstage, accompanied by a handwritten sign from the audience that read “Tequila Shots, From Chris.” In a full-circle kind of way, Whitney invited Rault back onstage to play their album’s instrumental, “Red Moon.” Rault was back to shredding the guitar and Whitney was back to cheekily drinking cheap pinot grigio between songs.
The band really shone when they played their hit “No Woman” to close the night. Towards the end of the song, they took a pause to embrace the audience’s energetic love before continuing on to finish the song. The control they had over their instruments was on point, leaving the audience mesmerized by the performance — if my Grandpa’s reading this, I’m still considering that tattoo.