Tim Baker Does What He Does Best: Bringing Holiday Cheer

Christmas came early as Canadian indie musician Tim Baker brought much-needed holiday merriment on a dreary, icy Tuesday in Montreal. Playing solo to a packed house at the Salle de Gésu, the former Hey Rosetta! Frontman - who is touring on the strength of his new EP Along the Mountain Road - proved to be the perfect tonic for the all-too-real pedagogical and commercial stresses prevalent in December.

Le Gésu’s 425-seat amphitheatre, located in the basement of a Catholic Church, proved to be an appropriate location for Baker’s brand of songcraft, drawing together a catechism of his own imageries while playfully merging tradition with his trademark sense of wonder. Though decidedly not a pontiff, Baker presided effectively over the delighted crowd, no doubt energized by opening act, Haley Heynderickx. The Oregon singer-songwriter’s modest, soft spoken style may have appeared counterpoint to the crowd’s fervent energy, but her introspection and sheer musicality made for an effective gangplank to Baker’s own brand of emotive folk rock.

Emerging in high spirits, the singer’s vocals were in fine form amidst the sparse setup of two guitars, one banjo, a keyboard, and a wonderful Kawai Grand piano provided by the venue. Baker deftly alternated between instruments, maximizing their output while bringing a low-tech approach to the proceedings, going so far as to tape down keys on his keyboard for effect. The resulting drone gave a gravitas to the moving “New Key” off his latest EP Along the Mountain Road.

The Saint John’s-based Baker, who is a Concordia University alum, admitted that being in Montreal was a bit of a homecoming while regaling the audience with anecdotes of how the city informed his writing and songcraft. Bringing a looseness, and a confidence that made the evening feel more like a festive gathering than a formal concert, a lax intimacy was evident in Baker's banter with the audience, clearly comprised of more than a few Newfoundland expats.

While Baker’s output with Hey Rosetta! and as a solo artist have involved lush, sweeping arrangements, and sophisticated audio productions, the stripped-down versions of his recorded output put special emphasis on the core spirit of the songs themselves. Though Baker’s lack of orchestral support went noticed, particularly on his gorgeous use of brass on new release “Pilgrims,” fans were forgiving, even serving as an impromptu choir for certain selections, like the catchy melody of “Some Day” off of his powerful 2022 album, “Festival” or fan favourite “Red Heart.” 

Getting progressively looser as the evening transpired, Baker felt free to experiment with instruments and lyrics, leading to welcomed mistakes, while sustaining an atmosphere of endearment. Strapping on some sleigh bells and concluding with a rousing rendition of Hey Rosetta’s infectious holiday jingle “Carry Me Home” only helped fill hearts with yuletide cheer, as attested by the smiling faces exiting out into the cold reality of a mid-December eve.


Donald is host and DJ of Eastern Promises Thursdays at 1:00PM