Review and Photos by Alex Bodi Hallett
Stage presence is a lot like charisma: it’s something that can be learned to a point, but for maximum effect, it’s best when it’s intrinsic and innate. If one were to take a class in “Stage Presence 101,” it’d be hard to do better than the twin billing of Sammy Rae & The Friends and Victoria Canal at Seattle’s Showbox SoDo. From Canal’s intimate moments that inspired the crowd to hang onto her every word to Rae’s endlessly energetic set that carved up every inch of the stage, this was a truly remarkable show.
It can sometimes be the case that the opener still sees the crowd trickling in, half-listening and half-aware. But it was clear that nearly the entire crowd was there to see Victoria Canal just as much as Sammy Rae & The Friends, given how early folks started lining up for doors and how deep the line was. For good reason, her performance was an absolute revelation. Victoria's voice is a force to be reckoned with. Her ability to convey raw emotion through a subtle vocal tonal shift and how she delivers the notes between notes is truly exceptional. Drawing largely from her three EPs—Virginia, Elegy, and WELL WELL - the sonic variety was truly show-stopping.
Aside from her incredible vocals, Canal’s ability to connect with the audience was effortless. Between songs, she shared personal anecdotes and stories that allowed the audience to glimpse into her world. Some of the most profound words came from her details of the tracks on Elegy. Her vulnerability was real and authentic, no doubt engendering herself even more deeply to all in attendance.
After Canal, the stage was adorned with national park and summer camp-themed decorations for Sammy Rae & The Friends. You know you’ve got the crowd waiting on bated breath when every stagehand who moves an XLR cable here or sets up a prop tree there is met with bombastic applause. So, it came as a catharsis when Sammy Rae & The Friends took the stage carrying lanterns and dressed as campers.
For the uninitiated, some words that come to mind to summarize Sammy Rae on stage are dynamo, leader, and charisma. Backed by a group of endlessly talented musicians, Rae's potpourri of funk, soul, and pop created a sound that had the crowd dancing from the very first note.
The highlights of Sammy Rae & The Friends' set were numerous. From memorable openers “Talk It Up” and “Follow Me Like the Moon” and staples “The Feeling” and “Closer to You” to the incredible horn section, the electric drummer and keyboardist, and at the center of it all, Rae's powerhouse vocals, it was a performance that won’t soon be forgotten.
Some shows are more than a concert; they’re a testament to the power of live music to lift, inspire, and be a safe space. Between Victoria Canal's soul-baring vulnerability and Sammy Rae & The Friends' impossible-to-top energy, this was a night of pure, unadulterated joy.
Sammy Rae & The Friends