Concert Reviews

The Ault Sisters -120 Diner

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

An unseasonably warm November wind was setting the mood for The Ault Sisters at 120 Diner. The Mississauga trio, mostly still in their teens, work the retro swing thing and work it with style and grace. Case in point, they faced a tiny crowdlet  and went about engaging everyone of us with a full-on performance. In the process turning out vivid interpretations of such as "Ain't Misbehaving" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" . Between sets they worked the room like it was packed solid, stopping by each table to check that everyone was liking the vibe.  Which was inclusive enough for a sweet, swinging, almost scatlike take on Van Morrison's "Moondance."

What they're currently up to was highlighted by an original, "Wasting My Time With You", a soulful nugget with a contemporary feel even as it references The Andrews Sisters and The Ronettes.  It's part of an album currently in the production stage and due in March 2017. If this single's an example of its DNA, it should be a grabby one.

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KC Roberts & The Live Revolution-Revival

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

Heading west as the temp drops and the wind kicks up. Good thing next stop is Revival and the incendiary funk styling of KC Roberts & The Live Revolution. The recipe they cook from involves classic Stax funk, D.C. late Eighties acid funk and the hard-as-diamond power funk of Living Colour. An irresistible floor-filler of a mashup when delivered by the Parkdale octet and abetted by the urgent, testifyin' vocals of K C. The set leaned into recent album From The North and its crowd pleasing faves including "Diamond On The Dancefloor", "Soulwalk" "Find You Again" and "Tribe Beneath The Storm," as the folks on the floor didn't so much dance as pulsate like a massive, single-minded sweaty life form.

For the diehards, they hauled out back catalogue bullets "Drift Away," "Money Ways," "Between The Cracks," "Fire Burning" and the fans were literally throwing themselves into it as the band blazed on, three piece brass section to the fore and the backline of bassist Matt Fullbrook and drummer Chino de Villa keeping the beat strong. The gig was promoted as the last one for the band in 2016 but if you're into it, wouldn't be a bad idea to keep an ear open over the holiday season.

Leaving the Revival and checking out the lineup for the second show, it must be said that the funk sure brings out the diversity. One nation under a groove indeed.

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Tom Rush Rush Hour At Hugh’s Room

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Submitted by Don Graham

It had been over three years since Tom Rush had performed  at Hugh’s Room in Toronto and the overflow crowd was a testament to how well loved and missed the man had been. When long time friend and former waitress at the iconic Riverboat in Toronto, Jane Harbury, introduced him and Tom ambled, yes ambled , to the stage you could almost feel the room smile with love and loyalty. Tom acknowledged how he happy was to be back in Canada although not without some trepidation, “ I’m 75 now and that’s about 99 Canadian!”

Tom and accompanist Matt Nakoa (more on Matt later) started the night off with a tune that gave an idea as to what was in store, “It’s Gonna Get Hot Tonight” and the party had begun.  For his second song Tom explained,“I’m going to do a new song and the reason I’m doing it so early in the set is cause if it sucks I have the rest of night to redeem myself.”  After he finished “Come See ‘Bout Me” the crowd let him know “it didn’t suck.”  Next up was a song by The Austin Lounge Lizards, “How can you not like a band that has a  song called ‘Jesus Loves Me, But He Can’t Stand You” called “Old Blevins.” Needs to be  heard to be fully appreciated but is perfectly suited to a Tom Rush set.

Coffee, Country and the Blues

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Submitted by Pat Blythe
Photo Credits: Pat Blythe

It was Super Bowl Sunday and the hype hadn't seemed to penetrate those of us heading to Taste of Colombia for an evening of music. As a matter of fact, I didn't even know "the game" was on until somebody wondered out loud what the score was. The half-time show apparently bombed....big time. The sound a word....sucked.

In my humble opinion, nothing compared to what was happening at Taste this fine Sunday night. Sam Taylor, a new blues sensation, and singer/songwriter Don Graham (the country part) were about to give us a "taste" of what music is really supposed to feel like. The event was organized and hosted by the ever gracious Michael Williams, he of rapier wit, lover of music and master of the java bean.

Shad Live at Massey Hall

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Submitted by Lee Fraser
Photo Credits: Live at Massey Hall Series

This is not your parents’ Massey Hall. Now in its second season, “Live at Massey Hall” is a series that features up-and-coming Canadian artists in the iconic venue.  Not every episode converts the centenarian into a throbbing night club, but that was certainly the case when Shad headlined on Friday, March 27. The tip off was when the programming director took to the stage pre-show to say something to the effect of ”Things can get a little crazy at shows like this, so we’re asking that you please keep the centre aisle and the front of the stage clear for the camera crew.”

The evening got under way with Zaki Ibrahim. After an intro by her guitarist, the lights came up as the percussion and vocals grew louder;  Zaki stood before us in a stunning dress, singing in French.  After only one number, people in the audience were exclaiming “Wow.”  The show that Zaki Ibrahim presents is aurally, visually and emotionally stunning.

Mimi O'Bonsawin at Legendary Gladstone - Legend in The Making

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Submitted by Don Graham
Photo at right: Photo Credit Paul Brown

With her new self titled album hitting the streets officially last week with a CD release attended by friends, family, fans and music industry A Listers, Mimi O'Bonsawin seized the moment.

The 20 year old singer/songwriter owned the stage from  the downbeat until the last note rung in the room and hung in the air at the legendary Gladstone Hotel Ballroom in the Queen West area of Toronto. Producer and co-writer Thomas Wade, who this night doubled as guitar player and musical director, assembled some the area's finest musicians and background singers to insure the live sound was as close to the record as possible. And that they did.

Mimi O'Bonsawin CD ReleasePhoto Credit Paul BrownMimi O'Bonsawin CD Release
Photo Credit Paul Brown
The set started with the lead single “Stone Gaze” with Mimi’s trademark dreadlocks piled on hear head in a loose bun and high heels to go with her beautiful stage dress. The band rocked the tune with the first two words "Shiver, Shiver" setting the musical tone for the set. The confidence in Mimi’s voice and her delivery  belied her age and stage experience. The lady is a natural and commands attention. The relative newcomer owned the audience and the song; you knew her time had come and she had arrived. The enthusiastic  applause after the opening number only strengthened her mood as she shook her ginger dreads loose and kicked the grown up high heels off and became the free spirited Mimi, barefoot and uninhibited.

Eric Andersen You Could Have Heard a Pin Drop

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Submitted by Don Graham

Eric Andersen’s return to Hugh’s Room was a fascinating night of legendary songs, newer songs destined to become legendary and triumph.

When I arrived at Hugh’s Room for Eric Andersen’s performance, the room was already buzzing in anticipation of seeing and hearing this American icon who was there at the beginning of the explosion of music in New York’s Greenwich Village.  He was introduced by Jane Harbury who was once a waitress at The Riverboat in Toronto where Eric played and sang in the 1960s. The moment he was introduced and made his way to the stage the room fell quiet, eerily quiet. That’s how much respect this man got from this audience of fans and people just wanting to be transported back to a simpler time. But this was not a nostalgia show. Unlike some veteran performers Eric Andersen didn’t just sing his classic songs from the 60’s (although he could have easily done a whole evening of that) but rather did some current material. He even had a song called The “Plague” where he referenced the current Ebola scare in Dallas Texas. “You guys are following that right?”

From the first words out his mouth when hit the stage you knew you were in for an interesting evening, As he climbed up on the stage and put on his guitar he stood by the mic, in the soft lighting, looking very ethereal and said, quietly “ Can you walk behind Niagara Falls? “ Somebody yelled out “Yes!”  Eric said, “How far back can you go?” The answer, “ About 200 feet.” Eric stared out at the crowd and said “I’m going to be thinking about that all night.”  The crowd was all his from that moment on.

Suzy Bogguss At Hugh’s Room Lucky Us

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Submitted by Don Graham

Hugh’s Room, Toronto’s acoustically superb listening room venue, and American sweetheart songstress Suzy Bogguss, are a perfect fit. Both are unique and tops in their field so it was fitting that Bogguss  graced Hugh’s Room stage on Saturday night (August 16) to a capacity crowd.

It was a magical evening and the attentive crowd got what they came for and more. Suzy, bass player extraordinaire Charlie Chadwick and Chris (If It Has Strings I Can Play It) Scruggs  grabbed the crowd immediately with Suzy’s big hit ‘Outbound Plane’ and held them for the entire night with their musicality, humour and warmth.

Suzy Bogguss has platinum and gold records in her collection and a Grammy award but on stage she gives you the impression that she has come to your house to sing, entertain you and make sure you have a good time. No diva syndrome here. It probably helped that Suzy, who went to college in Illinois, had her college roommate from back then in the audience. They got together for a chat before the show and Suzy said laughing, “One of us went north and one of us went south. She told me I had a southern accent and I said you have said “eh” five times It was sure great to see her again.”

Tommy James Live at Casino Rama

Tommy James Live

Submitted by Sandy Graham

Watching Tommy James and The Shondells is like buying a personal ticket to your memories through music. With a crowd of close to 5,000 people filling the theatre venue at Casino Rama, TJ came out to a thunderous applause to ‘Draggin’ the Line’ and it only went up from there.

Taking you through a series of his hit records; ‘Hanky Panky’, ‘It’s Only Love’,’Getting Together’,’Crimson & Clover’,‘Sweet Cherry Wine’, ‘Crystal Blue Persuasion’, and using ‘Mony, Mony’ as a huge crowd pleaser by coming down off stage and walking through the audience, stopping to sign autographs and let people take photos with him on their phones and cameras. I saw TJ do this last year at the CNE and it really works. Although security gets overwhelmed walking beside him, with everyone wanting to touch, hug and shake his hand. While TJ does the ‘walkaround’ his band vamps and waits for him to return to the stage. What is so refreshing to see is the current rendition of The Shondells enjoy singing and performing the hits as much as Tommy James does, and there is a great chemistry on stage as well as strong three part harmonies from  John Golden (lead guitar and music director) Owen Yost (bass guitar) and Jonathan Ashe (acoustic guitar). Keeping it all together are the rest of The Shondells; Glen Wyka on drums, Bennie Harrison on Hammond B3, and Mike De Maeo on synthesizer.

Sultans of String: Koerner Hall


Toronto, ON.
Submitted by Lenny Stoute

Watching people stream out of the St. George Station and roll directly towards Koerner Hall as if on tracks was an indicator of just how far Sultans of String have come from their beginnings in the small clubs on the Danforth, to the magnificence of Koerner Hall.  Once the show started, they looked totally at home on a stage spacious enough to accommodate seventy-something people and leave lots of space.

Like many in the audience, I’d never seen the Sultans do their symphony thing, so the anticipation barre was way high. Doubly so for those who’d heard the songs from Symphony!, the band’s current release and centrepiece of the show.

The full house was to be treated to the songs on the album, as recorded, with full symphony Ork in attendance. With the orchestra in place and warmed up, the Sultans of String took the stage to a wave of applause and promptly launched into the sparkling, flamenco flavoured ‘Alhambra”, followed by "Rainflower Kitchen Party, a six minute romp through all sounds Celtic, then into “Josie, a virtuoso set piece for McKhool’s showcase of the many styles of ‘roots’ violin playing and onwards to the gypsy jazzy, guitar-powered “Emerald Swing”.

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