These 4 moments in Canadian music history give us all the goosebumps: Here’s why

Jun 28 2022, 4:00 pm

We’re super excited to see the return of live music this summer and to get back to the roar of the crowd and all the action and emotion that comes from enjoying our musical heroes perform right in front of our eyes — not on a screen (hallelujah).

Have you ever been at a concert or live music event and heard a song that gave you goosebumps or a shiver down your spine? Turns out that about half of concert-goers are primed to feel that same kind of thrill. The sensation is called frisson (pronounced free-son) and it comes from deep inside our brains. Frisson is a French term meaning “aesthetic chills” and it encompasses all of those spine-tingling, goosebumps, lump-in-the-throat, and hair-standing-up-on-end feelings. It is a neurological response that our brains have to auditory or visual stimuli — basically a pleasurable reward from your brain.

But why and how? When the loud music or an unexpected sound hits, our brains can automatically default to alert for a threat (because we’ve evolved from people who had to run from predators). But as soon as we realize we’re in a safe space, our brains “reappraise” the situation, which gives us those sweet chills.

But don’t just take our word for it.

We’ve spoken to neuroscientist Dr. Matt Sachs, a post-doctoral fellow at Columbia University, who’s been working with SiriusXM Canada to ensure fans can rediscover the chill-inducing experience of in-person events this summer and beyond.

Dr. Sachs took us through what exactly is happening in our brains when we’re having an emotionally charged reaction to music. And to exercise your frisson muscles before that next big concert, we’ve curated a list of some of the most goosebump-inducing moments in Canadian music history.

Leonard Cohen’s performance of “Hallelujah”: Fredericton, 2008

When Canadian music icon Leonard Cohen broke a 10-year silence with his performance of “Hallelujah” at Fredericton Playhouse in New Brunswick, the lucky audience knew they were watching history in the making.

According to Dr. Sachs, when something unexpected happens at a live music event, like a loud sound or a performer surprising the audience, we become more alert. Then we have a “cognitive reappraisal that there’s nothing actually threatening,” he tells Daily Hive. Once we realize we’re in a safe environment, we experience “a flick that gives us the kind of enjoyment to experience surprise or uncertainty, but within a space that’s safe.”

The Weeknd’s Superbowl halftime performance: Tampa Bay, 2021

Over 103 million viewers tuned in to the 2021 Superbowl halftime show to watch Canadian artist The Weeknd — a performance that was unique in many ways, including the fact he was confined to the stands due to pandemic restrictions. Undeterred by the limits, The Weeknd ran through many top hits (like in “Blinding Lights,” “Starboy,” and “Can’t Feel My Face”) in his 14-minute set.

For most of his decade-long career, the Weeknd had been finding ways to duck the spotlight (including wearing bandages on his face) but this performance had him – and his uncovered face – front and centre, much to the delight of TV audiences.

“Social connections are hugely important to the formation of reward pathways that are activated by live music,” says Dr. Sachs.

Music brings “catharsis, a release,” that comes from “understanding another person like the artist and the lyrics” or from “being around other people that are like-minded, where you feel like you’re like them and not alone,” says Dr. Sachs.

Alanis Morissette’s uncensored version of “You Outta Know”: Grammy Awards, 1996

Canadian music goosebump moments

Alanis Morissette (Justin Higuchi/Flickr)

Alanis Morissette cleaned up at the 1996 Grammys. At only 21 years old, she took the crown for Album of the Year for Jagged Little Pill, Best Rock Album, Best Rock Song, and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. Her raw and uncensored performance went down a storm among the live and TV audiences.

Dr. Sachs’s research found the ephemeralness of live music to be another goosebump-inducing factor. “Live music has that additional component [where] you’re often hearing songs that you know quite well but they could be changed [by the artist] or they could have a surprising moment because of the way the performer plays — it’s ephemeral; anything can happen,” he says.

The Tragically Hip’s final concert: Kingston, 2016

The Tragically Hip (radiobread/Flickr)

With the news of Gord Downie’s terminal diagnosis, it was an emotional summer that led to the whole country tuning in on every possible screen to watch the iconic band end their journey where it all began: in Kingston, Ontario. An estimated 11.7 million Canadians tuned into the live performance, with millions more attending the live concert.

Dr. Sachs’s research found that the act of moving your body in sync with other people “is related to prosocial behaviours and social bonding,” which leads us to be more empathetic and “willing to help [others].”

Music is also a trigger for nostalgia. “How close we feel with our former selves influences our emotional responses to music that may have come from [a certain] era,” says Dr. Sachs. “Live music is tied to memory. If you’re there in person, it’s more likely you’ll remember the event in the future and subsequently feel nostalgic for it.”

So there you have it — the science behind why live music makes us feel so good and four moments, in particular, that give us all the frisson feels (even just writing about them).

SiriusXM will be at Live Nation Canada events at Budweiser Stage, and at festivals including Born & Raised, FVDED in the Park, Osheaga, and Rolling Loud this summer. They’ll be on-site to give fans and SiriusXM subscribers unparalleled concert experiences such as VIP upgrades, access to an exclusive branded lounge, and memorable fan experiences.

If you can’t make it in person, subscribe to SiriusXM for over 425 channels including ad-free music, artist-curated channels, premier sports talk, comedy news, podcasts, and exclusive behind-the-scenes and live moments.

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