Noah Kahan’s June 5 performance at Azura welcomed audiences into a playground of generational trauma

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Noah Kahan at Azura. // Photo by Zoe Strohm

On Wednesday night, Noah Kahan’s tour stop “We’ll All Be Here Forever” sold out the Azura Amphitheater, just a year after headlining at The Truman. Hailing from Vermont, the indie folk artist takes fans on a fun ride through alcohol abuse, being the child of divorce, and the love-hate relationship we all have with our hometown.

Singer-songwriter Ryan Beatty opened for Kahan and delivered a chill, acoustic set. Beatty hit the mark, starting with a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?” Although his set was short at only seven songs, Beatty did not disappoint. As the sun set, leaving a golden hue across the stage, he set the mood for the night.

This was my fourth time catching Kahan live, and each round improves by leaps and bounds.

Kahan quickly rose to popularity on TikTok in 2022 with the release of the single “Stick Season” and subsequent album release of the same name. Over the past year, he has gone from playing small venues with 1,200 people to selling out Fenway Park. So many breakout stars enter the spotlight and sudden fame overtakes them, but Kahan takes it all in with grace and treats every show, every audience, with so much love and appreciation, no matter the size.

Kahan has been touring for over two years, almost continuously, with short breaks in between, while still writing and releasing new music, organizing collaborations, guesting at other artists’ shows, and starting a charity to raise money for resources for the mental healthcare. This is not an easy job, and yet he makes it seem as if performing is not something he does for money, but out of pure pleasure.

The set started at 9:20, but the crowd finished much earlier. With the first sign of movement on stage, the lawn went from sitting peacefully and chatting to everyone dragging their blankets down the hill and getting as close to the fence as possible.

Kahan took the stage and dived straight into “Dial Drunk,” getting the crowd pumped before switching into “New Perspective” and encouraging us to drag all our friends down when things started going a little too well for them.

After the first five songs, photos of Kahan’s family were released to decorate the stage. “This is my mother’s living room, where I first started playing music,” Kahan says. “You know, without all the generational trauma.” Here he played a short acoustic set, accompanied by Nina de Vitry on violin, Noah Levine on guitar and Dylan Jones on banjo. Much of Kahan’s discography reflects on his childhood and growing up in New England. The addition of family photos and photos of his hometown reminded us that all these songs we have fallen in love with, that we identify with so strongly, tell someone’s real story.

Between songs, Kahan interacts with the audience, reading signs, signing posters and even drawing a tree so someone can get it tattooed. At one point he asks the audience whether he should call us Kansas City or Bonner Springs, which is answered with loud shouts of “Kansas City!” He performed the unreleased song “The Great Divide,” which he has been teasing on social media in recent months. Despite many hearing the entire song for the first time Wednesday night, those who followed him online knew the chorus from the clips he posted and sang along to.

Towards the end of the show, Kahan made his way to the smaller B stage in the center of the seating area. The layout of Azura Amphitheater places most of the audience on the lawn with a more limited view of what’s happening on stage. Kahan made a point of standing facing the lawn and said, “When I started this tour, I wanted to make sure everyone was there. I wanted you to know that I see you too, even in the last seat in the house.

From this stage he sang three more acoustic songs, this time alone. During the second song, an unreleased song titled “Pain is Cold Water,” the audience fell silent as they did not yet know the words. Slowly the flashlights, held high above everyone’s heads, began to turn on. While this is normal at concerts, you usually don’t get a chance to see what the artist sees. With everyone in the lower bowl turned to watch from behind and the crescent shape the lawn makes around the amphitheater, you could almost feel the love the fans have for Kahan from every angle.

While Noah Kahan is the title act, the band blows it out of the water every time. Guitarist Noah Levine makes the guitar look easy as he moves around the stage, dancing and jumping, without ever making a mistake. Dylan Jones is an all-rounder and switches from banjo, mandolin and keyboards in an instant. Alex Bachari on bass provides the low notes and high energy. Marcos Valles on drums may be in the back, but he’s impossible to miss. While the rest of the band can move around, often playing back to back, jumping and dancing together, the speed and ease with which Valles moves is fascinating in itself. The newest addition to the band, Nina de Vitry, takes the show to another level with the addition of violin and soft, sweet background harmony.

When he returned to the main stage, they played four more songs, the last of which was ‘Northern Attitude’. Fake snow fell from above the stage, covering the band and those standing in front of the pit. The band left the stage and the crowd immediately began chanting, “One more song!”

When they returned to the stage, Kahan and the band were now wearing Sporting Kansas City jerseys. They performed “The View Between Villages” and “Stick Season,” ending with maple leaf-shaped confetti falling over the crowd.

There’s something amazing and almost bittersweet about watching an artist you love explode in popularity, but Noah Kahan deserves every bit of it. People often ask me why I keep buying tickets when I’ve already seen it several times, and the answer is always simple. I’m always sure I’ll see an artist doing what he loves, for people who love him for it.

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