Hannah Georgas wows the hometown crowd at the Commodore
At the Commodore Ballroom on Thursday, December 19
When Hannah Georgas emerged from Vancouver’s indie scene a few years ago, she was known as a coffee shop–friendly troubadour with a knack for warm, frequently cuddly folk-pop. She’s since overhauled her sound, and her headlining gig at the Commodore Ballroom showed that she’s now a nightclub star in the making.
There wasn’t an acoustic guitar to be found on this evening, with rootsy ditties largely eschewed in favour of electronic textures and full-bodied rhythms.
Opener Brasstronaut established the night’s synth-oriented style with a selection of sprawling electro-jazz jams. Nearly every song featured extended instrumental passages, and singer Edo Van Breemen’s tuneful melodies frequently took a back seat to swaths of hazy ambiance and echo-soaked horn trills. The local six-piece’s performance was mostly made up of material from last year’s Mean Sun, but Van Breemen noted that a new album is in the works.
With Christmas less than a week away, the Commodore was decorated with strings of white lights and stars hanging from the ceiling. In keeping with the holiday spirit, the Blanket B.C. Society used the time between acts to request donations of warm clothes and blankets for those in need.
Once the houselights went down, Georgas’s performance got off to a low-key start with the moody combo of “Elephant” and “Enemies”. The singer-guitarist, who was clad in a red dress and illuminated by colourful stage lights, was joined by three bandmates; guitarist Robert Tornroos and bassist Cory Curtis conjured up atmospheric post-rock textures, while drummer Flavio Cirillo combined canned electronic beats with drum pads and live percussion.
The energy continued to rise throughout the set, with the upbeat pop-rock pulse of “Robotic” making for an early highlight. The bulk of the songs were drawn from her 2012 self-titled LP, but Georgas dipped into 2010’s This Is Good for a beefed-up version of “Lovers Breakdown” and the ghostly ballad “Thick Skin”.
Soon after, she brought out long-time collaborator Robbie Driscoll to strum a ukulele on “The Deep End”, and its bubblegum roots bounce and arm-waving chorus harked back to her folksy early work.
This was a pleasant trip down memory lane, but the best moments came when Georgas picked up the tempo. “Shortie” began with a harsh electronic rhythm before shifting into a jaunty groove, and the frontwoman embodied the track’s dance floor–fixated lyrics by setting aside her guitar to shimmy while handling keyboards. Naturally, the fans returned her animated enthusiasm in kind.
Georgas wasn’t particularly chatty between songs, but she offered a number of sincere thank-yous to the hometown fans who’ve supported her over the years. She also revealed a comically foul-mouthed streak when introducing “Millions”, as she explained that the tune was written for those who have attempted to stifle her artistically, adding, “This song is about telling those people to fuck right off.”
This uplifting, synth-spiked banger was quickly followed by the jittery new-wave surge of “Dancefloor”, during which Georgas’s note-perfect singing took on a wonderfully manic edge when her vocal line occasionally rose to an unhinged yelp.
After this, there was a sudden shift in tone, as she appeared to become emotional when introducing “Ode to Mom” and revealed that the song was inspired by her father’s passing. During the climactic ballad’s stripped-down finale, several fans got out their lighters and held them aloft.
The main part of the set then ended with “Waiting Game”. This cathartic rock anthem featured a guest appearance from locally based hip-hop star Shad. Rather than rapping, he contributed some deep harmonies and maintained a low profile, keeping one hand in his jacket pocket.
Georgas and her backing players left the stage, but they didn’t wait long before returning for an encore rendition of Rihanna’s “Stay”, which was met by cheers of recognition and the loudest sing-along of the night. For this guitar-led cover, Curtis and Cirillo set aside their instruments to guide the audience in hammering out a stomp-clap rhythm.
The 75-minute set concluded with “All I Need” from 2009’s The Beat Stuff EP. Beginning as a quiet, pastoral ballad, it surged to a pulse-racing crescendo, screeching to an abrupt stop at the peak of its epic buildup. It was a thrilling way to end the evening.
Adding to the positive atmosphere, many concertgoers were visibly delighted to leave the venue and discover that it had begun snowing lightly outside. Meanwhile, someone near the exit contributed to the seasonal mood by handing out candy canes. To quote a woman walking near me as I headed out onto the street, “It’s a Christmas miracle.”
For those who were already buzzing with excitement from Georgas’s feel-good show, this was the icing on the cake.