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Live Review: Port Cities

May 29, 2017

Music | by Courtney Blackman


Sometimes the banter between songs is what really clenches the audience-member/live-performer relationship, and Port Cities have perfected their in-between-song conversation. Equal parts comedic, gracious and humble, it’s the kind of band that has you wrapped around every word they say and every note they sing by the first song.

Hot on the heels of their UK tour, including gigs at The Great Escape in Brighton, FOCUS Festival in Wrexham and stops in Manchester, Sheffield, London, we saw them at gig at the Lunenburg Opera House in Nova Scotia, Canada – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in a venue that has just undergone a decade-long, multi-million dollar restoration – and it was awesome. It was the first time the band had played together in Lunenburg, having previously done solo performances in the town.

Dylan Guthro, Breagh MacKinnon and Carleton Stone. Photograph by Mat Dunlap.

The trio, made up of Breagh MacKinnon (vocals, keys), Carleton Stone (vocals, guitar), Dylan Guthro (vocals, guitar) – son of singer/songwriter Bruce Guthro, received not one by two standing ovations – no small feat in a town whose relationship with music goes back centuries.

Let’s back up a bit. Breagh, Carleton and Dylan are all accomplished singer/songwriters in their own right and it was a songwriting camp hosted by Nova Scotian legend, Gordie Sampson that pitted them together and as one concert-goer said, “I’ve seen them all individually, but the three of them together… it’s magic.” Magic indeed. So good is their songwriting, one song that Carleton and Dylan wrote for a friend “got him laid.” It was somewhere in Europe and Dylan thinks the girl might have been Spanish, while Carleton thought she was Australian. Anyway, you get the picture. They have skills.

When each one sang alone you could see why their solo careers were so successful, but the harmony of them as a threesome is something best witnessed live. With just a keyboard and three guitars (two acoustic and one electric) interplayed, they had the audience captivated.

Dylan Guthro, Carleton Stone and Breagh MacKinnon. Photograph by Mat Dunlap.

Roots rock with a pop influence, the band’s Cape Breton heritage comes through in the folkier pieces, while the more pop sounds are what have landed them the number one song on CBC radio (like the BBC, but put a ‘Canadian’ in the front), and positioned them in the top forty list on the national chart.

Their new album, the self-titled Port Cities, recorded both in Nashville and Nova Scotia is available now via their website and you can listen to them on Spotify.

Check out Dance On Me below:

Port Cities played in Lunenburg as part the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Society Concert Series and they will be back in the UK in September. We highly recommend catching them live. And, if you do happen to go see them, definitely sign up to their mailing list. Once a year they randomly choose a name from the list and do a free house show, and they assured us that they will play anywhere, even “in your bathtub; it’s your special night.”