Noah Kahan reminds Syracuse of simple pleasures

Noah Kahan Concert Review

Review: The 26-year-old artist wows the crowd of 18,000, moving them to exist united even if only for a night.

Noah Kahan, Syracuse, NY, Sept. 9, 2023. St. Joseph's Amphitheater. Noah Kahan plays for a sold out crowd during the 2023 NYS Fair Concert Series. By Maddie Crooke
Maddie Crooke
Singer-songwriter Noah Kahan plays for a soldout crowd at St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview on Friday.

The ring of Noah Kahan’s voice lingered hours after he exited the stage of St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview. The already inflated expectations for the Vermont singer’s sold-out Stick Season tour stop in Syracuse Friday night were met by his nostalgic lyricism. It was his grateful demeanor and quiet candor that also happened to captivate the audience.

Anticipation was building all night among the thousands of so-called “Busyheads,” and even more so with every minute beyond Kahan’s promised 9:15 p.m. start. 

Then at 9:26, the amphitheater lights dimmed, Kahan’s bandmates took their place on stage and fans took to their feet to see the clearly energized singer bounce across the stage to his place up front.

Appearing in a canary and blue plaid jacket over a black T-shirt and khaki pants, Kahan’s look matched his humble nature. Fans laughed as Kahan rattled off the list of nicknames he’s been given comparing him to more famous musicians including “Jewish Capaldi” (Lewis Capaldi), “Hairier Styles” (Harry Styles) and “Folk Malone” (Post Malone).

Standing center stage in a moment of disbelief, Kahan admitted the 18,000-person audience was overwhelming before cracking a coy smile that illuminated the stage in a way the amber lighting above him couldn’t.

He set the stage with “Northern Attitude” of his third studio album Stick Season and fans were quick to follow along, matching every note. Authenticity was heard in the rattling of his voice but felt even more so in his unwavering eye contact with fans. The only time the artist closed his eyes was to extract every bit of soul from his body. 

A selfless show indeed, Kahan still managed to extend the entirety of being on stage to those off stage. While the red projection of his face on the stage’s back screen might appear narcissistic, with Kahan, the graphic seemed like a way to connect with fans seated all the way on the amphitheater’s grass lawn. 

During “Everywhere, Everything,” audience phone flashlights illuminated the stage. Though a somewhat juvenile act, it moved Kahan to approach what opener Rushton Kelly deemed the “lit pit” referring to the standing-room-only area just feet away from the stage. After holding the hands of lucky fans, Kahan jumped back on stage. 

“Noah, we love you!” shouted one fan as the artist swapped his electric guitar for an acoustic.

“Do you really?” Kahan asked, already knowing the answer. “Thank you.”

Kahan’s talented tourmates exited the stage for the solo acoustic portion of the show that started with his break-up song “Maine.” 

Kahan then opened up to his fans about his mental health struggles. He detailed lying during therapy when he started at age 8 until he took an honest approach in recent years that has led him to happiness. “Growing Sideways” followed his confessional, inviting fans to express any and all of their own emotions. 

Kahan’s own face reflected anger, sorrow, joy, and clarity, but most of all pain as he faded into the final acoustic number, “Paul Revere”; the sounds were so fulfilling, you wouldn’t know it was only Kahan and his guitar on stage.

Singer-songwriter Noah Kahan plays back-to-back with multi-instrumentalist Dylan Jones for a soldout crowd at St. Joseph's Health Amphitheater at Lakeview. on Sept. 1, 2023.
Noah Kahan (right) plays back-to-back with multi-instrumentalist Dylan Jones during Friday’s show in Syracuse.

Every break Kahan gave his voice on stage turned into fans filling it in for him, for them. “False Confidence” was an experience within itself, the lyricism seeping into fans’ bodies and converting into uncontrollable swaying. By 10:30 it was evident that the night was coming to an end, but that didn’t stop fans from trying to extend it longer.

As Kahan exited the stage following his most recent hit “Dial Drunk,” fans whistled as a plea for his return. The band folded in a minute with all four members reappearing on stage before the familiar bearded face joined them with a cherry guitar second in command to his voice. He gave the audience three more from his latest album: “The View Between Villages,” “Stick Season,” and “Homesick.”

The sincerity in Kahan’s performance was enough to turn a non-listener into a long-time appreciator. The show served as a bittersweet reminder that there’s nothing like sharing good sound with good company.

Not two hours earlier, the punctual crowd cheered for an empty stage. As if summoned by an anxious crowd, Ruston Kelly appeared wearing a casual black cap, strapping on his guitar with a rushed elegance. He didn’t waste a second as the opening act.

Beginning with “Cover My Tracks,” the crowd felt comforted by Kelly’s melancholy presence – a foreshadowing of what was to come. Drummer John Chong’s headbanging paired with magenta stage lighting served as a testament to the excitement both on and off stage. 

Even the apparent spiderweb on Kelly’s mic didn’t stop him from heading right into “Changes.” His cover of Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” evoked a rock and roll hand sign from one audience member as another raised their camera to capture the moment, but it was his rendition of Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” that struck a chord with the crowd singing along.

Stark white lights suddenly filled the stage and otherwise stationary band members left their mic posts for some last chance enthusiasm. Before you know it, Kelly strummed his last note and punctuated his set with, “Peace!”

Keyboardist Dylan Jones plays with singer-songwriter Noah Kahan for a soldout crowd at St. Joseph's Health Amphitheater at Lakeview. on Sept. 1, 2023.
Keyboardist Dylan Jones performs during Noah Kahan’s concert Friday.