It isn’t often that big names in music make their way to upstate New York, so when folk-pop artist Noah Kahan announced that he was playing in Syracuse, just one hour north of Ithaca, Cornellians jumped at the chance to get tickets. The concert venue, St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater, held a crowd of 18,000 people, which Kahan noted was one of his largest crowds to date, and his show did not disappoint.
Kahan, who was born and raised in New England, references the place often in his music and much of his songs resemble the Vermont folk songs that he listened to in his childhood. His music touches on a lot of topics that the college-aged demographic can relate to, such as love and loss, mental health struggles and difficult family dynamics. It is not surprising that much of the crowd was made up of college students from all over New York state.
Before Kahan performed, opener Ruston Kelly took the stage. Kelly, a country singer originally from South Carolina, performed a mix of his own singles, as well as a few cover tracks. Some of his own songs included “Mockingbird” and “The Weakness.” The audience got to hear Wheatus’s “Teenage Dirtbag,” as well as Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” during the 45-minute set.
At around 9 p.m., Noah Kahan made his long awaited appearance as he started the show with “Northern Attitude,” his second single released prior to his album Stick Season, which came out a few months after the title track. The track reflects on the loneliness and isolation Kahan has felt at different points throughout his life. He then formally introduced himself to the crowd, joking that he was like an off-brand Harry Styles or Lewis Capaldi.
About midway through the show, Kahan took the opportunity to perform solo, without his band there as backup. The songs he chose to play on acoustic guitar were “Growing Sideways” and “Paul Revere.” Before performing “Growing Sideways,” Kahan gave an honest reflection about his experiences with therapy. He talked about how he started therapy at a young age, but did not truly benefit from it until he was completely honest in his sessions. “Paul Revere” reveals another personal struggle of Kahan’s: His experience of feeling trapped in a small town and the uncomfortable feeling about venturing outside of it. This track had some elements of a country song, which made it stand out among the mostly folk style set list.
Toward the end of the set, Kahan played some fan favorites, including “You’re Gonna Go Far,” “Orange Juice” and “Dial Drunk.” As a college student about to enter adulthood, “You’re Gonna Go Far” stood out to me, as the song talks about leaving home in order to pursue something greater. It seemed like much of the audience agreed with me as there were many cheers and chants when this song began. “Orange Juice,” a personal favorite of mine, was one of the most emotional tracks of the evening. As Kahan sang about having a relationship with someone suffering from addiction, you could see the tears stream down his face as he told this story through a song. The last song before the encore was “Dial Drunk,” a light-hearted tune that Kahan collaborated on with pop star Post Malone.
The show could not end without “Stick Season,” the track that arguably made Noah Kahan the star that he is today. The upbeat tune had everyone in the audience up on their feet, screaming, singing and dancing to the music. The final track of the show was “Homesick,” a song that pays homage to Kahan’s New England home.
While I had been a fan of Noah Kahan prior to attending the concert, seeing him live allowed me to view him in a whole new light. It was incredible to see how connected he was to each song he sang and the detailed intros before each performance allowed the audience to truly relate to the meaning of each song. The show was definitely worth sitting in the New York State Fair traffic, and I am already counting down the days until the next tour.
Ili Pecullan is a sophomore in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at [email protected].