How often does a Juno nominated artist roll into town to perform for St. Catharines? I’d wager not very often; so when it’s one of 2018’s potential Breakthrough Artists of the Year, it’s no surprise that he brought a huge following with him. The crowd practically filled the street outside of Warehouse before the doors had even opened on February 21, and you could feel the anticipation in the air. When he took to the stage for his headline slot, silhouetted against his own custom LED screen, the gathered crowd went wild. Virginia to Vegas is a big act, and his show in St. Catharines was a big event; for the devoted fans who came to see one of their favourite artists perform, he delivered.
To me though, something about the performance felt a little lackluster. The sound was huge, and in spite of the fact that it’s not the sort of music I’m into, his tracks have a groove to them that I was really enjoying. But there were three musicians on the stage, with one singer, and it felt at times like the most important performer was the laptop perched on top of the keyboard. The vocals lines that were out being performed seemed to drown amongst pre-recorded harmonies and the production elements that are a key part of his sound. It’s not necessary a fault on his part; after all, he has a sound people are into, and you need to be able to give that to the people who paid for tickets. But half of that sound was coming out of pre-recorded tracks on a laptop, and that to me undercuts the kind of energy that makes live performances special.
There was plenty of that energy in the opening acts, however, and they were a fantastic start to the evening. Opening the night was Robert Alfieri, whose collection of contemporary covers and several originals created a fun and engaging atmosphere. Alfieri played both piano and guitar with a staggering voice to boot; his raw vocal talent, combined with his welcoming on stage persona, made for an incredibly entertaining setlist. The moment I was sold was the moment he introduced one of his originals, which he tells us he wrote when he was ten years old, and was ‘super cringey’. He performed the song with so much conviction, however, that it didn’t feel that way at all. Alfieri is already a fantastic performer, and a brilliant talent, and I’m sure he’ll be one to watch as he makes his way through the local music scene.
Between Alfieri and Virginia to Vegas was Tuscany, a local duo who were undoubtedly my favourite act of the night. Singer Sophia Deluca and singer/guitarist Nico Tripodi would both be astounding acts on their own, with as much energy and stage presence as they have raw musical talent. But together, they become something special; their chemistry creates a performance that’s better than the sum of its parts, and suddenly two musicians sound like a whole band through sheer charisma. Their set also combined covers with originals, though the balance was in favour of the originals. These originals outshone the covers; they were borne of this incredible pairing of musicians, and so they were the perfect opportunities to showcase everything that makes them special as an act. In an evening packed with brilliant voices and fantastic on-stage charisma, Tuscany went above and beyond, and they’re the tune that’s stuck in my head ever since.