by Mica McCurdy
Each year, around this time, Hey Rosetta! comes home, and St. John’s rises to greet them. Celebrating community, homecomings, and the warm fuzzy feeling of listening to good music, they host a Christmas show with special guests and a surprise or two.
This year, St. John’s local Steve Maloney opened but the crowd didn’t truly begin to file in and settle down until Basia Bulat took the stage. Singing solo, with an acoustic guitar and loop pedals, her voice spilled in to the space creating a haunting, but beautiful echo with “Somewhere Else”. Following with “Go On”, Bulat built on her larger than life sound with energy that carried through to the crowd favourite “Tall Tall Shadow.” Peppering her set with anecdotes and banter, Bulat connected with the crowd, sharing that she had arrived in St. John’s early to enjoy the fun only Newfoundlanders have to offer. She casually moved through instruments throughout the set (guitars, ukuleles, and trademark autoharp), proving her mastery of instrumentation and closed with “It Can’t Be You”, whose phenomenal vocal run made for a moving moment of pure joy to carry the crowd in to the moment everyone was really there for.
Hey Rosetta! opened with title track “Soft Offering” from their most recent album Second Sight, with beautiful backing support from the Shallaway Youth Choir. Creating a full bodied soundscape, the night opened with a wave of voices, cheers, and confetti. They followed the strong start with “Carry Me Home”, with the crowd near overpowering the band on the chorus. Creating an ebb and flow of old and new, “Kintsukuroi” came next with a distinct rock sound that worked well in the space.
Then, the set really took off. Sparklers came out in the crowd, who seemed to intuitively know that “Yer Spring” was next, as front man Tim Baker announced, “This is a song about coming of age in St. John’s, Newfoundland!” Predictably, the crowd roared with approval. The song built a frenzy of happiness in the audience, only to be released at the close of the bridge and a heartfelt and clean strings finish that slipped in to a “Silent Night” interlude.
With a slow and steady rhythm, reinforced by the waves projected as the backdrop, “Gold Teeth” shone and reminded us that the new album holds gems with just as much pull as previous anthems. As Baker sang “Get your things, we’re leaving” to begin “New Goodbye” he raised his arms to conduct the crowd, but they already knew what to do and jumped in through to “Bandages”, as a beautiful chandelier came down from the back of the arena made up of weaving branches and light bulbs. There a small stage had been set up and the Shallaway Youth Choir shone in supporting vocals on the song, and the acoustic rendition of both “Bandages” and “Welcome” was a beautiful quiet moment in an otherwise loud (in a great way) set.
Later on Baker called out “Cut each other some fucking slack!” and “Red Heart” started with balloons falling on the crowd, and Baker playfully punted them back in to the throng of dancing bodies as they floated on to the stage throughout the song.
Keeping with the Christmas theme of the night, they covered beautiful rendentions of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”, “All I Want For Christmas”, and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, and “Auld Lang Syne” with a sound only Hey! Rosetta could create. The last two, performed during the encore with Maloney and Bulat, only reinforced that the holidays are about people coming together, whether over microphones or turkey dinners, to celebrate all that a year has to offer. From behind the group on stage, Christmas lights lit their rosy cheeks and a sign read “HR <3 ‘s YA” signaling to St. John’s they knew they were home.