July 30 was a quintessentially beautiful Vermont summer day – a good thing, too, because some Noah Kahan fans were in line before the sunrise, hoping for a shot at the front row. Anticipation was palpable throughout town in the days before Kahan returned to his home state for a weekend of two sold-out shows at Burlington’s Waterfront Park, presented by Higher Ground and Cabot Creamery.
Joy Oladokun, opening for Kahan, delivered a stunning set full of genuine gratitude and smiles. Oladokun, on stage with their band members Josh Scott, Gray Schweers, and Daisy Spencer, chatted easily between songs. “My two favorite things on the planet are getting stoned and playing guitar with my friends,” Oladokun told the crowd, “and today I get to do both.” As Oladokun launched into a cover of Elton John’s “Rocketman,” the sun slipped below the horizon of Lake Champlain.
When at last Kahan emerged on stage, joined by Marcos Valles, Noah Levine, Alex Bachari, and Dylan Jones, he ran right to the edge and waved in greeting before diving into “All My Love,” followed by “Everywhere, Everything.” Between songs, Kahan spoke to the crowd both jokingly and genuinely. “Promise you won’t try to call the number in this next one,” he said as he introduced “She Calls Me Back.”
Before “False Confidence,” Kahan acknowledged his longtime fans. “This one is for the ones who have been riding with me for a long time. If you know it, sing along,” he said, before nodding in the direction of Lake Champlain. “And if you don’t there’s a lake right there, go jump in it.”
The audience – which, Kahan announced, included his father – sang along to every word of Kahan’s set. Some lyrics were especially poignant to hear screamed out by a crowd of New Englanders: for one, the chorus of “Northern Attitude,” where Kahan sings, “If I get too close, and I’m not how you hoped, forgive my northern attitude, oh I was raised out in the cold.”
In “Homesick,” audience members sang along with Kahan: “I would leave if only I could find a reason, I’m mean because I grew up in New England.” An ironic sentiment for a moving collective experience.
“It should be a crime punishable by death to be happier than me at any given moment,” Kahan deadpanned, laughing before performing “New Perspective.” With his signature wild eyes and emphatic gestures, Kahan’s passion was undeniable.
The crowd’s energy was perhaps at its highest when Kahan performed his newest single, “Dial Drunk.” Kahan, who has affectionately been dubbed “Folk Malone” by fans, also released a collaborative version of “Dial Drunk” with artist Post Malone, which has been met with resounding success.
In a vulnerable speech before performing “The View Between Villages,” Kahan acknowledged the importance of mental health support, highlighting his own initiative, The Busyhead Project. Reminiscing on the days of his career when he used to play small local venues, Kahan told the crowd, “This year’s been weird for me too…Amazing, but hard to process.”
“Thank you to everyone here for supporting me and believing in me,” Kahan said, explaining that doing shows is his favorite part of his job. Expressing his gratitude to be back in his home state, Kahan thanked the audience members, as well as those who had gathered outside the sold-out venue to listen – on foot, bike, and even by boat.
Of course, the most fitting way to end the concert was with Kahan’s now-iconic lyric from the chorus of “Stick Season.” Under a starry Burlington sky, Kahan, Oladokun, and a crowd numbering in the thousands yelled out: “I love Vermont!”