Orville Peck Brought his Cowboy Kicks to Corona Theatre Sunday Night

Silver spurs to cowboys are what leather jackets are to punks. Cowboys are emblems of non-conformity and free-spiritedness, though Orville Peck is truly unlike any other cowboy; hiding his identity behind a fringed leather mask and a moniker while bringing country music to the likes of new wave and occasionally even shoegaze. While he keeps a sense of anonymity, anyone who witnesses the rhinestone cowboy will see that despite his mysteriousness, how much he embodies his personaor rather, how much his persona embodies him. And as the enigmatic Peck imbued the Corona Theater with his songs of heartbreak, loneliness and despair last night, I can attest on behalf of a crowd that donned cowboy hats and melancholy alongside Peck, just how much of his soul was bared.

There is something entrancing about Peck from the get-go. Perhaps it’s the anomaly of a cowboy in the indie music frontier but one of the most entrancing aspects of his performance art lives in his movements. Whether it’s a cowboy kick, or bucking back as he plays emphatic country guitar licks, or even a gesture as simple as pointing to emphasize a lyric, Peck doesn’t move because he feels like it; he moves because he has to—a release of all emotional currents aching throughout him. All of these moments culminated in Peck’s performance of his song, “Turn to Hate”, off of Pony (2019). The second song of the set epitomized all of what Peck’s discography represents: lyrical themes of being by your lonesome, guitars evoking the sound of a desert landscape with the orange glow of a sunset soon to fade, and brooding country vocals that place him at the center of it all.

Among all the countless times “Turn to Hate” has enraptured me into a desert of my own to roam, hearing it performed live made for a completely different experience. Wearing an all-black ensemble, with hints of gold accents on his belt and on the brims of his cowboy hat reminiscent of the album colors featured on his latest release, Bronco (2022), the song synthesized. With the support of his band consisting of Duncan Hay Jennings and Bria Salmena on guitar and Kris Bowering (“a gemini that we still trust”, per the words of Peck) on drums, the song drew on with hazy, sonic cascades transcending into the physical world, creating phantasms of desert winds as Peck delivered the outro: “walking back towards the gate / you’ll all be stars now, just you wait / done enough to take the bait / don’t let my sorrow turn to hate.” With such opaqueness, it’s hard not to enter Peck’s rodeo. A quality of Romanticism also pervades his music, calling to mind a similar experience of listening to the music of Lana Del Rey (which would be a collab from the heavens), for instance; only adding to the escapism of his music.

After delivering a couple songs Peck spoke to the audience and laid the groundwork for his shows—the three rules for everyone in the crowd. The first rule is to cry, as Peck says he’s “always crying through [his] own set”, the second rule being to sing, specifically encouraging “those who don’t know the lyrics to especially sing along” and the third: to dance. Throughout the set Peck also personally gave out roses to select members of the crowd who caught his eye for whatever reason, the first one being given out to a fan who he discerned having “such good vibes”, making him beam a gratitude so bright that even his mask couldn’t hide; a glimpse of Peck’s genuine being.

The show closed with an overwhelming encore of  “Take You Back (The Iron Cattle Call)” to which Peck requested everybody’s participation to whistle along. But the people did more than whistle; they stomped, hooted and sang along, all at the "Bronco 2022 Tour" in Montreal.