Review: Hillsburn-The Painted Lady, Toronto-February 7, 2018

Review & Photos By: Nerhys Hall

To promote the release of their sophomore album, Halifax five-piece Hillsburn kicked off a spring tour on February 7th at The Painted Lady in Toronto.

Before the event even began, the bar was packed; dozens of conversations going on all at once creating a buzzing, excited atmosphere. When the band took the stage, everyone’s attention instantly focused on them and cheers erupted. Front-woman Rosanna Burrill took command with her charming charisma and million-watt smile.


Of the thirteen songs, Hillsburn played nine from their new album and four from their debut. They began their set with “Sun Out To Shine”, a song that starts slow with organ and strong female vocals before gradually building and adding rich, three-part vocal harmonies. The song has an emotional, blues sound and features a soaring fiddle, played by Rosanna. Changing pace, the band played the drum-driven anthem “Strange Clouds” for their second song.

The order of songs performed made sense, not having too many emotional or high energy songs in a row. Twice the band even got audience participation, the first time during their fifth song, “Run Down”, and the second time on their twelfth song, “Young Desire”. During the second instance, Rosanna left the stage and sang most of the song in the audience, interacting with fans. Her energy was infectious and everyone was singing and clapping along.


One song that particularly stood out was “Bury My Heart”. The quick, driving song that has a pure Maritimes sound to it, with Rosanna’s fiddle and Paul Aarntzen’s acoustic guitar taking centre stage for a jaunty, foot-stomping tune that sounded like it could be right out of a kitchen party. That song was definitely the high point of the evening for me. Not that there was a low point at all, only more relaxed times during slower songs like the fourth song “Everything Is New” and the tenth song “With The Larks”.


Hillsburn kept the audience’s attention during the entire set, and after leaving the stage after twelve songs, they returned to play an encore. “Time Of Life” begins soft and features a haunting fiddle, but picks up intensity for a powerful finish. The harmonies stayed tight the entire time between Rosanna, her brother Clayton, and Paul. Jackson Fairfax-Perry’s keyboard and synth playing provided a solid bass base to their music, and Clare Macdonald’s drumming stayed clean even when she played more complex rhythms.

The Halifax band returns to Toronto on April 12 at the Rivoli. If you want to go to a fun show with an amazing indie band, you should go check them out!

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