Concert Review: Charlotte Day Wilson & Rhye

On September 24 Montreal was treated to a synergic evening of R&B, thanks to the predestined combination of Rhye and Charlotte Day Wilson. The sold-out show kicked off with an opening set by Wilson, whose blossoming popularity was palpable in the crowd. The lineup outside le National was abuzz with stylish 20-somethings chattering not only about the evening’s main act, but also its opener. 

Charlotte Day Wilson emerged on the Toronto music scene hardly more than a year ago, and has quickly established herself as one of the city’s most exciting independent acts on the rise. After releasing her critically acclaimed debut EP CDW last summer, she toured with Local Natives and appeared in collaborations with prominent fellow Torontonians BADBADNOTGOOD and Daniel Caesar. 

Wilson’s performance on Sunday delivered the gorgeous sultry vocals I’d come to expect from listening to CDW; what I hadn’t fully appreciated however was the vastness of her musical talents. She shifted seamlessly between guitar, bass, and a rousing saxophone solo. Her fluency as an artist doesn’t stop there; Wilson’s EP was entirely self-produced, save for a guest spot from River Tiber. Her skillful versatility adds a richness to the sound that otherwise might not be felt with a three-piece band; backed only by a drummer and a keyboardist, Charlotte’s smooth sweltering sounds nonetheless flushed the concert hall.

She closed the set with her standout single “Work”, before gushing “you guys are going to have so much fun tonight, Rhye is one of my favourite performers I’ve seen ever.” It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine Wilson taking inspiration from the ethereal R&B duo; both acts deal in smooth musings on love, carried in each case by a pearly voice that often acts more as an instrument than as a vessel for lyrical content. 

But if Wilson’s set felt tangible and conversational, having greeted the audience with a familiar “sup, Montreal?”, Rhye was enigmatic. Their presence was announced by a boxy cowbell-like sound, calm and resounding, leading into the first song. It wasn’t until after the fourth number that Mike Milosh, also a Torontonian, greeted his audience. This mysterious quality is consistent with Rhye’s brand, having appeared initially online as an anonymous project, and not revealing Milosh and Danish producer Robin Hannibal’s identities until well after the release of their first single. 

Milosh was joined onstage by a diverse band consisting of a keyboardist, bassist, drummer, violist, and a cellist/trombonist. This dynamic cast was an absolute joy to watch; a gentle symphony, sprouting out new sounds here or there, then wrapping them back into the satin sonic blanket. Milosh acted as the meticulous and devoted choreographer of it all, attentive to each piece of his dreamy compositions, and gliding masterfully about the stage. Like Day Wilson, Milosh proved to be a talented multi-instrumentalist, taking up the keys and drums when he wasn’t busy captivating us with his achingly perfect voice. Rhye’s sound ranges from eerie atmospheric minimalism to danceable pop, sometimes swelling with intensity to an elegant storm, illustrated visually by the rumbling clouds on a grainy black and white screen in the background. 

2013’s Woman being the only release to date, I think we can expect to see an even greater range in Rhye’s musical landscape as their themes grow and diversify with future projects. The same goes for Wilson who, like Rhye, treated Sunday’s audience to new unreleased music from a forthcoming project. It will be exciting to watch these two acts over the coming years and see what their new releases bring into the realm of genre-bending R&B.