Despite the snow on the ground and dropping temperatures, Black Cat Tavern was kept toasty on Nov. 14 by the warm and funky music of Ami Cheon and vbnd and the Soulmate Collective.
The two bands perfectly complemented each other, featuring a diverse and balanced group of musicians that delivered incredible performances.
Hearing that Devon Gunn, the bass player and founder of vbnd and the Soulmate Collective, broke his finger the day before, we were intrigued and excited to see how he would deliver his unique brand of bass-driven soul without a functioning hand. Gunn himself impressively played the bass synth for the first time on stage instead of his usual bass guitar as a result of his broken finger.
Rising to the occasion, the group gave an engaging performance that reaffirmed their place as one of the smoothest acts in Saskatoon. Their flawless execution of vbnd’s originals was interspersed with tasteful covers.
The balanced sound throughout the set was achieved through Katie Tupper’s sultry vocals, the brightness of the guitar and Connor Newton’s textured saxophone playing.
Some highlights included polished covers of Roberta Flack’s Feel Like Makin’ Love and Vulfpeck’s lighthearted single 1612. Although both covers demonstrated the band’s versatility, Tupper’s vocals shone on Feel Like Makin’ Love, which was delivered in the style of R&B legend D’Angelo.
The band showcased their cohesive sound with originals from vbnd’s most recent album Daughter of the Sun, which features hip-hop influenced percussion, melodic guitar and jazzy sax solos. Their performance did not disappoint, and it was the perfect lead-in for Ami Cheon.
Cheon is a Winnipeg artist on her debut single tour. This show was the first stop on the tour, which added exhilarating energy to the performance. Cheon was backed by Austin Parachoniak, Dallas Nedotiafko and Kevin Waters.
A nice surprise for the crowd was when Cheon excitedly announced that her debut single, Growing Up, was set for release on all major streaming platforms at midnight after the show.
Cheon performed in a more minimalist, open form that gave her captivating lyrics to breathe. Laying the foundation for the band was drummer Kevin Waters, who demonstrated the most active and dynamic percussion of the evening. At times, Waters seemed to transcend into a higher dimension of groove, keeping his laser-focused rhythms precise and controlled.
This percussion interlocked with the keyboard work of Dallas Nedotiafko, who was not only playing keys but split his synth into two parts to play bass with his left hand.
This impressive display of musical versatility was compounded when he harmonized with Cheon’s vocals, focusing on three different instruments at once. Parachoniak provided an amazing balance of rhythm and lead that could only be described as buttery.
Sitting on top of this impressive ensemble was the unmistakably controlled and uninhibited sound of Cheon’s vocals.
It was evident that she had cultivated and worked towards a complete mastery of her voice, which entranced the crowd. Do not miss a chance to see the talent that is Ami Cheon, as it will be no surprise to see her reach new heights of success in the coming years.
Wyatt Henley & Holly Gilroy
Photo: Supplied by Ami Cheon