X Ambassadors rock the Turret Nightclub

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There’s something odd about a Sunday night concert at Wilfrid Laurier University.

You’re not typically immersed in the live music scene on a night before a busy workweek. Even for me, a graduate of Laurier, I wanted to spend my night at home curled in bed watching Law & Order after a stressful weekend. But when I found out X Ambassadors would grace the Laurier crowd Sunday night at Turret Nightclub as a pit stop on their North American tour with Muse, I couldn’t resist.

So over to the Turret I went around 9 p.m.

The Walkervilles, a neo-soul band from Windsor, Ontario, was set to open for X Ambassadors. While not a well-known band by any means — I had never heard any of their material — The Walkervilles provided a soothing introduction to the party the audience was due to experience. Their repetitive lyrics made it easy for listeners to sing along without much of a struggle. And even if their audience was solely there for X Ambassadors — an obvious case, even to the openers — The Walkervilles appreciated being the entrance to an iconic group making waves in the music industry

At 10:35 p.m., the fun began. X Ambassadors introduced themselves to the crowd with the tune “Loveless” from their 2015 full-length album VHS. Despite transitioning from the likes of the Air Canada Centre to Turret, the small venue’s intimate stage seemed like home to the alternative indie-rock band.

Front man Sam Harris constantly engaged with the student-oriented crowd, spending more time on the metal barricade than the actual stage. He often jumped up on the edge of the barricade, holding his hand out for fans. For almost the entirety of the song “Unsteady,” Harris gave onus to the audience to sing the lyrics of the ballad into his microphone. He finished the song by stopping and taking a moment to say nothing more than, “Wow.”

X Ambassadors’ connection to the crowd was amazing. Sam Harris didn’t stop smiling through the entirety of the set and found infinite ways to engage with the audience, including forcing them to put their “whole five fingers up” during their rendition of “Hang On.”

Keyboardist Casey Harris, despite being blind since birth, was a catalyst in many of the audience’s cues to clap or sing along when songs hit their peak. Casey Harris’ connection to the music was evident by the way his soul was exposed for every moment of the set.

Unfortunately, it was hard to gauge the engagement from the audience. To mainstream music listeners, X Ambassadors is known for their hits, “Renegades” and “Jungle,” and this was obvious when they began to dive into their material from their early EPs. Songs such as “Love Songs Drug Songs,” which was the best performance of the night with a saxophone number from front man Harris, was a piece the audience was not familiar with, making it difficult for the them to engage like a traditional concert.

To a long-time fan, this was the let down of the concert. An engaged audience is half the battle for a good concert.

While the Laurier audience obviously enjoyed their time, it was evident many were fans of the current X Ambassador’s sound.

But every band has their mainstream audience and their long-time fans. X Ambassadors didn’t discriminate in their set and left an impression that, despite being a constant opener for big-time names, XA will soon find their places as the headliner.

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