Earlier this year local radio station Live 105 announced that they (in conjunction with Sonic Concerts) were bringing Ithaca, NY-based X Ambassadors to town (along with fellow New York-based band Savoir Adore). The show was initially slated for the Multi-Purpose Room at the Halifax Forum; however, as the concert date neared, the show was shifted to the ever-popular Marquee Ballroom.
Arriving at the venue, the line was beginning to snake down the sidewalk alongside the Marquee as the doors had not yet opened, and by the time we were admitted entrance there were people in line standing down on Brunswick Street. Considering it was Thursday night in Halifax and the city’s concert-going reputation as of late has been somewhat shoddy, it was great to see that the room was packed.
As the show was behind schedule, we had the opportunity to see Savoir Adore wrap up their sound-check while the remainder of the crowd streamed into the venue. The room was nearly full when it came time for the Brooklyn-based band to hit the stage. While the delayed opening seemed to zap some of the room’s energy, the synth-drenched ’80s infused pop-rock sound of Savoir Adore definitely made a valiant attempt at reinvigorating the room. While a large swatch of Haligoons in attendance were on board, there was a small contingent who were content at maintaining an audible level of chatter while the band played. Paul Hammer, Lauren Zettler and company had a great time and closed out their set with their current single “Giants”. While there was a definite disconnect between some of the attendees and the performers on stage, many of those in attendance appeared to enjoy Savior Adore’s set.
Since the show was still facing the time crunch imposed by the delayed start time, the stage crew kicked things into high gear and proceeded to process a flawless changeover in preparation for the evening’s headliners X Ambassadors. In preparing for the show, I took a few spins through their album V.H.S. and quickly discovered that the band is more than their pair of ubiquitous singles “Unsteady” and “Renegades”. Now, don’t get me wrong, those singles are solid, and are heard everywhere for a reason, but personally I found more charm and personality on tracks such as “Hang On”, “Jungle” and “Gorgeous” (which may in fact be my favourite track on the album). So I was looking forward to seeing what the band had to offer in a live environment (especially since they were now playing on a smaller stage than initially planned).
The band hit the stage together, and as they splintered off to find their places on stage, lead singer Sam Harris guided his brother Casey (the band’s keyboardist) to his place, proceeded to kick the show off and, in doing so, charmed the pants off the room. The air of positivity and swagger possessed by the X Ambassadors was undeniably infectious, and for the next 90 minutes or so the lead singer held the audience rapt as he shimmied across the stage, and at times leapt in the air to punctuate the potency of the band’s material. While some may see the band as another in a long list of radio-friendly alt-rock acts, I would challenge them to dig into the band’s work and experience the soul and gospel-tinged rock tunes that are infused with a modicum of pop sounds. It’s this fusion of styles that has allowed the X Ambassadors to span genres and expand their fan base.
All in All, the inaugural visit of the X Ambassadors to Halifax was a resounding success. The band put on one of the most fervent and exciting shows that the Marquee has been privy to in a long time (outside of the Halifax Pop Explosion). It was one of those shows that left many in attendance in sheer awe of the energy and talent of this New York band. Hopefully we see them back in town sooner than later.