Bringing his international “The Ephemeral Prince Tour” to The Grad Club, Halifax native Rich Aucoin delivered a high-energy dance pop performance, on Wednesday.
Referencing the themes of isolation and interconnectedness found in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince that are explored in Aucoin’s album “Ephemeral.” The rich wood and red velvet of the Grad Club was transformed with dim lighting and the twinkle of Christmas string-stars into a void of outer space.
Toronto-based band HIGHS opened the show with a set that brought strains of summer and reminiscences of warmth to a lingering Kingston winter.
The indie four-piece band blended playful confessions into bright addictive beats with whimsical melodies to showcase the tight vocal harmonies of the members.
Songs off of their self-titled EP like “Mango” — sitting precariously between nostalgia and anticipation — are balanced expertly between the whispered secrets in the unreleased “Still and Still” and “Untitled”, with their skilful manipulation of pacing and created tension, that pulls between the keyboard and bass lines. HIGHS ended their set with contrasting numbers “So Sad”, “Never Mad”, with a guitar line that tickles up the spine, and “Summer Dress”, a love story set to a swaying bass. The band revealed a thoughtful dichotomy — moving the audience between swaying and dancing — leaving the audience warmed up and ready to move when Rich Aucoin took the stage.
Aucoin then emerged from the darkness Beginning his set with “Meaning of Life”, Aucoin layers questions of existence over the building urgency of drums and languid vocals.
Lyrical fears about the future and separation are contrasted by melodies and dance beats that bring the audience into a single, dancing collective; a togetherness that forms a central idea in Aucoin’s music.
“My whole show is about bringing people together to see each other and connect,” Aucoin said.
With explosive hooks, accompanied by showers of confetti and glitter, Aucoin succeeds. The raw, heavy synth in “They Say Obey” had the audience moving and jumping together, and they danced out their anxieties with the millennial anthem “Yelling in Sleep.” The dance party excitement continued to build into “Four More Years”, where a huge parachute was released to enclose the crowd.
Aucoin skilfully pushes the audience towards an emotional edge, building within songs and throughout his show, matching the energy of the crowd as he brings them from nodding their head to dancing recklessly to jumping wildly, in a memorable show by an amazing artist.
“[The show] was really fun — the Queen’s crowd and Kingston is just such an awesome audience,” Aucoin said.
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