Katie Crutchfield powers Waxahatchee down-home heights

Massey Hall perfect setting for Crutchfield’s fresh and personal Americana

Who: Waxahatchee
When: Tue., April 23
Where: Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St.
Vibe: Everyone hopes to be frontwoman Katie Crutchfield’s new friend as the Alabama-born singer emanates an “everyone’s welcome, why don’t you pull up a chair” feeling in a non-needy way
Highlight: Singalong show-stopping with sizzling Fire encore
Rating: NNNN (out of 5)

WHEN Waxahatchee frontwoman, Americana-crooner Katie Crutchfield, joins her five bandmates on a stage that’s somewhere between a throne room and the set for a ’60s variety show hosted by someone like Bobby Gentry or Dolly Parton, two stars she has more than a little in common with, she’s greeted with the kind of swoon-infused roar usually reserved for royalty.

Grabbing a guitar, she steps onto a slightly raised round podium that’s ringed with a semi-circle of upward-facing spotlights that could be commoners at her feet. But she kicks off the show like a rock star, blasting into 3 Sisters from her excellent new album, Tigers Blood from which she’ll play every track throughout the evening, eventually tearing a ballcap from her head and whipping into the crowd like Mick Jagger flinging a scarf.

She owns the room from the first song and never lets go, daring to open with three tracks from the new album. “Woots” of joy pepper the night, even during the quiet moments, like relentless bullfrog croaks around a pond.

Her fragile yet forceful falsetto powers a nonstop collection of rootsy, twang-tinged songs both personal and empowering, forging a connection with the crowd that feels more like a friendship than a show. The concert is almost cellphone-free; she didn’t ask for this, but it’s as if no one wants to treat her as a stranger, putting a piece of glass between themselves and the singer.

Seriously, I survey the room all night and barely see a cellphone glow — ever.

Her bandmates don’t stop smiling throughout the show, smoothly trading off instruments and adding to the front-porch-jam vibe of the evening. Haven’t seen the banjo used this well since Allison Russell last month at the Music Hall — not just a prop.

Mid-show, staring out and up into the crowd in magnificent Massey, Crutchfield shares, “When I dreamed of someday being a singer, this is what I was going to see.” It was a moment as intimate as her songs.

A false start on a new song Crowbar just further endears her to the crowd before she gives the guitar a rest, now grabbing the mic with two hands and straddling the stand as she belts out Ruby Falls from her Saint Cloud album somehow upping the ante.

She’ll spend just enough of the night roaming the edges of the stage to make it more intimate, even sitting on the lip of the stage to sing before reclaiming her thrown centre stage and powering the show to a satisfying finish. After a faux goodbye she rips her encores with a scorching run through Fire from Saint Cloud before releasing an ecstatic room of true believers into the night.

It comes as no surprise to bump into Waxtachee band members hanging out in front of the Hall shortly after the show milling in the crowd — the way friends do.