Banners and Tor Miller Shine a Light on Edmonton

By: Michelle Guthrie & Caleb Fox

It was a chilly February evening last Wednesday in Edmonton, but the Starlite Room was heating up for hailed Liverpool musician Banners and his powerhouse solo opener Tor Miller. Enthuse staff members and fans Caleb Fox and Michelle Guthrie lined up outside the iconic Starlite gates, eagerly awaiting doors and front row spots.

Tor Miller
By: Caleb Fox

Very seldom has a young artist excited me as much as Tor Miller. The 22-year-old musician hailing from Manhattan captured my attention when he released his debut EP in February of 2015, and then cemented my love with his first full-length album American English last September. Miller’s music cannot be pinned down to a singular genre, yet his sound still is cohesive and unified. It helps that he has one of the most incredible voices I’ve ever heard, with a huge range and control over every note he sings. Finding out that Miller was touring with fantastic British artist Banners had my friends and I showing up at the Starlite Room three and a half hour before the doors even opened to secure the first spot in line.

Photo: Caleb Fox

It was certainly a long wait, but the moment Miller took the stage we knew it had been worthwhile. Performing completely solo, Miller enchanted the audience just by playing an electronic piano, with only a small green mixer at his side. His opening number, the gospel-inspired ballad “The Dirt” carries waves of emotion and made clear to the audience that his stunning voice was all he needed to carry the show. From there, Miller effortlessly breezed through a 45-minute set, spanning high energy pop style songs such as “Surrender,” and the piano-driven “Baby Blue,” which shows just how wide the young man’s range really is. Though I imagine it would be easy for Miller to get lost in his music, he never forgot his audience, frequently smiling at his fans in the front row while they sang along, and when asking whether to play a fast or slow song, even taking my personal request for the gorgeous “Washington Square Park.”

By the time his phenomenal set closed with his catchy single “Carter and Cash,” it was clear that Miller had won many new fans in the cheering crowd. He announced that he’d be selling his own merchandise after the show, and as we rushed over to the stand at the end of the night, we were happy to see the long line of people waiting to meet him. Another line bore another worthwhile wait. While signing autographs and taking photos, Miller was kind, humble and friendly. And when he told me how much he appreciated me singing all the lyrics to his songs along with him at the front of the stage, he made my night.

It’s not often that an opener is just as, if not more exciting than the main artist at a concert, but Tor Miller was easily the best opening act I’ve ever seen, and the best up and coming artist I’ve ever heard. Hopefully, he has many more shows to come.

By: Michelle Guthrie

Photo: Michelle Guthrie

After Miller’s outstanding performance, Banners (Michael Nelson) and his touring band took to the stage in front of the roaring sold out crowd. Nelson, always friendly and down to earth, naturally weaved his soft but rippling pop anthems with conversation and interaction with the crowd. At one point he asked the audience, “so what’s the most exciting part about Edmonton?” which was met with silence followed by someone shouting, “NOTHING!” The small conversations, though light and seemingly going nowhere, added a certain closeness and charm to the concert.

His touring band are a sassy energetic bunch. As soon as the keyboardist got on stage, he leaned forward and stared into the cheering crowd until they got uncomfortable — then he laughed. Between songs, the bassist and guitarist were whispering to each other and when Nelson asked them what they were talking about, the bassist said, “we were just talking about how great you are…” But above all, the band’s overall harmonization, particularly during “Gold Dust,” was outstanding and goosebump-worthy.

Photo: Caleb Fox

Though Banners has only put out a 5-song EP and 3 singles, he was able to give a fair amount of show time. Halfway through, he debuted an unreleased single saying half-jokingly, “it’s up to you Edmonton, if this sucks then…I won’t release it.” It proved to be as upbeat and single-worthy as the popular “Shine a Light.”

Finally, for the encore, the band ended with the hauntingly beautiful “Ghosts” and their ever anthemic single “Shine a Light.” For a band that has a softer sound, Banners was overall able to put on a show chock full of catchy and electric hooks, build a connection with his audience, and leave fans anticipating his full-length album.

The intimacy of this show, and the atmosphere both musicians were able to create for their fans, was incredible. Tor Miller was able to go on stage by himself with merely a keyboard and a small mixer and deliver the most stadium-worthy and powerful vocal performance we have ever experienced. Banners took the short time he had to connect with the audience and perform music that was both breathtaking and electrifying. Next time either Tor Miller or Banners tours nearby, we highly recommend you give them a shot.

(Featured Photo By Alea Ostry)

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