Rolling Stone, Paste, 2021 Montreal Gazette cover-featured alternative phenom Alex Henry Foster (AHF) is set to release his triple-vinyl / double-CD live album and concert film Standing Under Bright Lights 4/16/21 from Hopeful Tragedy Records. The project, available to preorder today, was recorded live in front of a sold out Club Soda (July 2019) while AHF headlined the Montreal International Jazz Festival. From Montreal and now residing in the highlands of Virginia, Foster’s full production, 11-piece band concert was highlighted as one of the top five concerts not to be missed by Canada’s national TV/Radio broadcaster CBC.
Originally set to release October 8, 2020, which would have been his late father’s birthday, Foster decided to utilize the extra time the worldwide pandemic would give him to produce Standing Under Bright Lights. The recording features the never-before-released song “The Son of Hannah” that was co-produced with his longtime creative partner Ben Lemelin. American Songwriter-premiere streams the song this week, which is also available beginning today at digital and streaming outlets internationally.
“‘The Son of Hannah’ is as much of a cathartic metaphor to my father’s tormented and distressed nature as it is a vibrant homage to a man who dedicated his life to emancipate himself from his inner demons, to find everlasting rest within, to make peace with his past and shortcomings while embracing an inevitable defeat to the implacable essence of cancer,” reveals Foster of the intensely personal song.
Along with the new single, Standing Under Bright Lights features every song from AHF’s debut solo album, Windows in the Sky, which hit No. 1 multiple times on the Billboard Canadian Albums chart, staying in the Top 40 on the chart for a full year after its release. The songs from this celebrated album were re-invented for the live recording as the band performed along with a movie projection produced by Foster. Based on Foster's vision, award-winning light engineer Pascal Boily created a unique scenic landscape, offering an immersive universe where music, movie projections and light co-existed. Alex wanted the public to be invited to dwell on the moment rather than have the sensation of attending a concert.
The resulting concert, almost 2 hours and 30 minutes long, is now considered among the best concerts throughout the 40 years of the Montreal International Jazz Festival and has been mentioned as one of the best presentations overall that year. But more importantly to Foster, the immersive experience he had invited the audience to participate in had been so singularly successful that it set a new standard for his fan experience engagement.
Foster, having previously denied any form of touring or public event in order to preserve the intimate nature of his songs written as a cathartic expression for him following the passing of his father, was persistently asked by the vice-president of the Montreal Jazz festival, Laurent Saulnier, to join the prestigious event. After repeated inquiries, AHF finally accepted the invitation with the condition that he would have absolute control of the production and promotion, which they were pleased to agree to.
“My vision to preserve the integrity of the songs from being played over and over was a son’s ultimate attempt to keep a part of his father alive. But that night, I realized that once communed, every word and sound has the ability to grow beyond the emotions they were created from, making them somehow eternal… just like my father. Therefore, the sole concern that now remains is how willing I am to face the fear to be left alone night after night when I let go of him, when I don’t have any more reasons not to assume who I am now, to stand under bright lights, whatever it may reveal to myself and others.”
Overcoming his fear, Foster and his band are preparing to tour internationally following the album release with 23 dates in Europe set to begin in May, pandemic allowing.