Review: Dear Rouge at Danforth Music Hall in Toronto, October 18, 2018

I had a “moment” during Dear Rouge’s gem of a show at Danforth Music Hall in Toronto. A moment inspired by a moment in life relayed by singer Danielle McTaggart as she introduced “The Clearing,” the dramatic track that closes Phases, their latest album.

It’s probably one of those concert moments that I’ll never forget, much like the first time I heard them play “Little by Little” for the first time almost three years ago.

Danielle talked about how it was written during a time in her life where things weren’t going the way she would’ve liked. It was a tough time. She dreamed of a life in music but it wasn’t happening. She didn’t feel “seen.”

I think it’s true that that’s something we all want. We want to feel acknowledged, especially for doing something that matters to us.

It occurred to me while I was watching their stirring performance of that song that that is really the reason why I started this blog. There are others, but that’s what it comes down to. Maybe that’s not a profound realization. Why else would you publish something for anyone in the world to see, other than to be seen? But it struck me as poignant in the moment. Almost as an epiphany. Because even though this blog doesn’t exactly have a rabid following of thousands craving more My Shuffled Life, the paparazzi aren’t trying to peek at my keyboard through a window, it has allowed me to be seen in a really satisfying way. And it’s felt good to be seen. I think back to the feelings of joy I had when I was plugged on the Nerdist Podcast and got a bunch of new readers; when Juliana Hatfield, an artist I’ve admired almost more than any other, retweeted a link to a post; when a Twitter “like” by @foofighters on my recent review of their show led to a spike in readership like I’ve never seen.

But I’ve never felt more seen because of my blog than by Drew and Danielle McTaggart of Dear Rouge. The first time I wrote about them, they said nice things and retweeted it. Drew agreed to do the blog’s first interview. Then I met them after a show and I felt a whole new connection that felt like a kind of friendship. Then we ran into each other at a Blue Jays game and had a great long chat and they met my boys. Danielle told me how much she loved my writing and that meant more to me than I was able to express to her at the time. When you’re seen in that way for your art, by someone that you see in the same kind of way for their art, that really feels like the ultimate in being “seen.” And I know I’m not the only fan who they make feel seen. That’s just how they are with their fans, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Without a doubt, I enjoyed every second of the show before “The Clearing,” but something about the profundity of thoughts and emotions it stirred opened me up to enjoy the rest of the show in a new way. I was freer. I felt unburdened by any anxiety I’ve been feeling lately and I let the music and the performance wash over me. “Little by Little” exorcised any lingering stresses. It’s the song that solidified my dedication to a more positive outlook when I first heard it at that 2015 show, long before its release on Phases. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard them play it tighter and as enthusiastically as they did last night.

Like I’ve said in the past, their whole energy is just so positive that it becomes joyful to be in their presence. Danielle even insisted that we all get rid of whatever is stressing us out these days and encouraged us to crouch down, then jump up and shake it off, dance it out. It worked.

The party kept going with singalongs on debut album hits “I Heard I Had” and “Best Look Lately,” while, much like I observed when they opened for Lights in April, the new songs like “Chains,” “Modern Shakedown” and others exploded live even more than they do on the album. They just rocked more. And Drew scratched my guitar solo itch by cranking out a couple of melodic gems that don’t appear on the recordings. The one during “Motions” slays me and I really wish it was on the record so I could hear it again.

Danielle talks a lot about friendship and connection with the audience. She even admitted to getting a little emotional toward the end. And I think when you get down to it it’s because that connection means she feels seen.

We see you, Dear Rouge. I see you. I’m so grateful that I do. And that you see me, too.

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