Cannons really showed up at 9:30 Club recently, and the sold-out house was really there for it.
Looking like Barbarella fronting a couple of cowboys, Cannons quickly demonstrated how they have gotten to be a really good — and a pretty big — act after 10 years of paying their dues.
Opening with the title track to their 2019 sophomore full-length album, Cannons had the audience eating out of their hands from the very start of the show at 9:30 Club on Sept. 12.
Since forming in Los Angeles in 2013, Cannons have released three full-length albums and four extended plays. They visited DC in March 2022 to sell out Union Stage in support of Fever Dream, their most recent release. But they are due to release Heartbeat Highway, via Columbia Records, any time now, and the band’s current tour is dedicated to showcasing that unreleased record.
So across 18 or 19 songs, Cannons performed five from the upcoming Heartbeat Highway, including the title track in the middle of the show. It’s a slow-burning, romantic number that was a strong example of the band’s embrace of dreampop. It was also a great springboard for the voice of front woman Michelle Joy, who happily paraded around the stage while emanating sunny vibes.
Later in the show, Cannons performed “Loving You,” also from the upcoming album, which mixed a powerful and catchy Western melody into its dreampop. Michelle sounded inviting, soothing, and exciting as she crooned, “Can you hear the voices calling?/ I was made for loving you.”
Watch the official music video for “Loving You” by Cannons on YouTube:
While the new songs were truly intoxicating, it was clear Cannons has known what they are doing all along. About three-quarters through the show, Cannons performed “Spells,” one of their oldest songs, and the crowd remained totally hook. A slowly pulsing number with a dash of R&B, “Spells” demonstrated intelligent songcraft with uncomplicated but emotive lyrics and mesmerizing instrumental washes.
Still, the audience saved their biggest reactions of the night for the numbers that have justifiably put Cannons on the map in recent years. Michelle introduced “Ruthless” from Fever Dream as a song that is about a woman who had to face down a lying, cheating partner. Her “give-a-fucks broke” and her “fuck yous became fully functional,” Michelle quipped. Michelle swayed in place as she spun the words: “You’re making me look foolish, stupid/ Man, you’re so ruthless, fuck you.”
Cannons closed the main set with the one-two punch of “Purple Sun” from Fever Dream and “Fire for You” from Shadows. “Purple Sun” was a fully realized torch song, and “Fire for You” was nothing short of a knockout ode to longing with an extraordinary dance beat.
Watch the official music video for “Fire for You” by Cannons on YouTube:
The crowd went wild and the band returned for a two-song encore. The first, “Desire,” was the band’s most recent song, and it was a glittery earworm that built a bridge from Cannons to Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby.” Michelle introduced the last song of the night — “Evening Star” — as a special song because it was one of the first songs the band ever wrote. And it too was a delightful dance tune.
Michelle has a lush and hypnotic voice, and she’s clearly a powerful draw with looks that seem ripped right from the pages of a modeling magazine. The rest of the band met her in every moment. Guitarist Ryan Clapham really set the mood with killer melodies that would suit a Quentin Tarantino movie. Bassist and keyboardist Paul Davis was a one-man rhythm machine, generating dance grooves all night long. And touring drummer Ben Hilzinger was a bandmate that anticipated Paul’s needs and gave him, Ryan, and Michelle all the fills when they needed them.
All in all, Cannons are an extraordinary band, who clearly have some even bigger things in their future. DC will see them again soon undoubtedly. Keep tabs on their live dates! You’ll want to be there.
Here are some photos of Cannons performing at 9:30 Club on Sept. 12, 2023. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.