Dear reader, writing this review is bittersweet. You're reading this wondering how last night's shows were, and that means you weren't there. That means you missed them. Too bad really, because last night was amazing. Many people saying it was their highlight of the fest so far (only 3 days in!). At least you'll know better for next year: Saturday nights are made for Bluesfest.
Ottawa Saturdays, however, are filled with fun things to do, so the first thing we caught was the hyped-up dance party courtesy of Fitz & The Tantrums. Opening with an energy-rattled version of "Keeping Our Eyes Out", off their recently released More Than Just a Dream, they had the crowd hooked right from the get go. Maybe with the music, maybe just to watch the super sassy Noelle Scaggs (vocals) dance her booty off. Girl's got swagger for days, but also a killer voice! That was clear after the sound was adjusted during "Don't Gotta Work It Out". From there the show was smooth sailing production-wise, and EVERYONE in the crowd was moving by their third song, "Breakin' The Chains of Love." Could've been the James King's work on the saxophone, I mean, this is a Bluesfest after all. Note that everything they played was an amped up, way more rocked out version of what you find on their albums. Oh, and some things that you won't, like a mind blowingly good cover of The Eurythmic's "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)". I swear that sucked all remaining bystanders into the crowd's energy forcefield. Hooked people, hooked. Choosing to play "Moneygrabber " for their penultimate song (maybe as a festival courtesy for people wanting to check other stages), frontman Micheal "Fitz" Fitzpatrick exploited the crowds loyalty. Fitz & The Tantrums helped Ottawa get down...and then lose their minds! A must see live, this'll be a hard show for the rest of the Bluesfest artists to top.
Next up was the beautiful Neko Case, a chance to chill on the grass and cool down after an hour of straight dancing. The reason you go to a Neko Case show, is to hear her unmistakable voice. Unfortunately from my vantage point the vocals were murky, and a lot of what I love about her haunting songs was lost. Not that it wasn't a nice show, and it's always a pleasure to hear Jon Rauhouse on the pedal steel, but I'm not sure about Neko Case for a big stage at Bluesfest. Her talent is certainly befitting, but I imagine wanting to see her in a dark smoky bar if not just listening to her albums at home.
Alright darlings, we've saved the best for last, for me the real gem of Saturday's line-up: Belle & Sebastian. It's almost best that I don't write a thing, for this will be nothing but gushing. Songs spanning their entire catalogue (yes, that's 11 studio albums over 17 years), none of them sounding like the original recording. In the best way possible, of course, one of my favourites the pared down beginning to "Expectations." Frontman Stuart Murdoch's mid-song banter was charming as expected from a handsome Scot, and he was rewarded with chips for his hummus. Stevie Jackson wowed with both his astonishing guitar skills (the solo during "I Want The World To Stop" literally stopped some people trying to get though the crowd in their tracks) and strong vocals, sounding ever better live on "To Be Myself Completely." The only thing I would've changed, and of course I wouldn't have changed a thing, would have been to hear Sarah Martin sing more than just "I Didn't See it Coming." Next time, maybe? Now that Ottawa's clearly got many more here on their bandwagon, fingers crossed they'll be back to play again.