THREE GREAT BANDS, ONE GREAT BILL
I may have bought a ticket to see headliner Airbourne a couple of months ago when they first went on sale for their Toronto show, but by the time the concert was about to start I was more intrigued to hear openers One Bad Son and The Glorious Sons — whose material I was completely unfamiliar with. Why is that you may ask? For the umpteenth time, Aussie rockers Airbourne were doing a cross country trek throughout Canada — and by the way, I am not complaining — only this time around they were bringing along two bands that were unknown to me. However, as the bands made their way from west to east across Canada, I was starting to get reports from various friends on how good the openers were. First up was Sleaze Roxx’s own webmaster Skid who advised me, “make sure to go early enough for The Glorious Sons”. Next up was my friend Mark who caught the bands in Kitchener and declared, “One Bad Son is NOT to be missed” and “[The Glorious Sons] singer has that star quality”.
With such rave reviews for the two opening acts I made the earlier than planned trek via subway across town in case vehicle traffic would be too busy for me to make it to the Danforth Music Hall on time. After all, I was leaving at close to 7:00 pm with Toronto rush hour traffic still going pretty strong. I made it to the Danforth a little after 7:30 pm and there was already a good sized crowd in the all general admission area — as the balcony seating was closed.
Within half an hour, the One Bad Son band members strolled on stage. From what I recall, the band members had a quick huddle before belting out their first song. Right from the start, all of the group members were exhibiting high energy levels — in particular lead singer Shane Volks, who made more jumps from way up high than I have ever seen, and bassist Adam Grant, who seemed to be almost dancing at times to the bass grooves that he was laying down throughout the night. Volks quickly introduced the band as “good old boys from Saskatoon [Canada],” or something like that. As the band cranked out what seemed to be heavier tunes during the first half of their set, the crowd seemed to get bigger and bigger and more appreciative of the band’s meat and potatoes rock — I certainly was.
You could tell that One Bad Son thought this was a special evening — perhaps due to the size of the crowd which was likely around 1,000 or more by the time Airbourne hit the stage — because Volks declared something to the effect that it can be pretty shitty going from coast to coast with van breakdowns and whatever other bullshit a band has to go through, but playing in front of this big Toronto crowd was something special! I could not tell you the first three songs that One Bad Son performed but the last three seemed a little more memorable, from the band’s single “Satellite Hotel” to the apparently danceable “Retribution Blues” to show closer “Psycho Killer”. All in all, One Bad Son delivered a strong performance and I enjoyed all of their songs on a first listen.
Next up was The Glorious Sons and I did not know what to make of the band when they strolled onto the stage — seven band members including a keyboardist, a female back-up singer and one of the guitarists (Jay Emmons) was barefoot. Nevertheless, as soon as the band broke into their first song, I instantly knew that I would like their music laden with heavy riffs yet lots of melodies. I am not sure why, but the band has some sort of indescribable magic to them. As predicted by my friend Mark, lead singer Brett Emmons does possess that mystical star quality. Albeit, the guy did not move that much sometimes but his vocals were really good and his passion for the music was clearly evident. He reminded me of Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie with his quirky and sometimes unpredictable stage moves and how he seemed to often be lost in the music. This comparison might not be much of a stretch since both The Glorious Sons and Tragically Hip are Canadian bands hailing from Kingston, Ontario.
At one point, Emmons described how, two and a half years ago, he was a struggling student in Halifax on the east coast of Canada until he received a call from his older brother Jay Emmons asking him to come to Kingston to get a job and eventually become the lead singer of The Glorious Sons. The first song the band with their new vocalist came up with was “White Noise”, which was one of my favorites of the evening. What I liked about Brett Emmons — and the same thing can be said for One Bad Son‘s Shane Volks — is that he took the time to introduce a few of the songs with a little story for each. In addition, Brett Emmons knew how to get the crowd going addressing a prior (and ridiculous) statement made by KISS‘ Gene Simmons that, “Rock is finally dead”. Clearly, rock and roll was alive and well at the Danforth Music Hall on this evening. While I know that some don’t care about a frontman’s interaction with the crowd, it can be boring simply to have a band play all of their songs without addressing the fans more than to say “thank you’ or something like that.
Other highlights from The Glorious Sons included their breakthrough song “Mama”, the song “Heavy” — which I only identified once I bought the band’s CD after the show — and the catchy yet heavy “The Union”. Overall, The Glorious Sons put on a surprisingly very good (to me) performance and I look forward to seeing them play again. Although the band’s music is not what I would traditionally listen to, The Glorious Sons seem to have that mystical ‘X factor’ and I am very interested to see how they fare in the future.
Unfortunately for fellow Sleaze Roxx writer Mark Horvath, he and his girlfriend Christine only got to the venue at the tail end of The Glorious Sons‘ set so both of them missed out on some great hard rock to start the evening. Christine had secured Airbourne‘s setlist from a previous night and I was surprised to see that it was very heavily favored towards the Aussie band’s debut album ‘Runnin’ Wild’ — with eight out of the eleven tracks to be played coming from that album. It felt a bit weird to have a band as young as Airbourne already reduced to playing what amounted to a greatest hits set — or essentially playing most of their first record live — yet I was pleased with the song selection. Having already seen Airbourne play live at smaller venues in smaller cities back in 2010 (click here to read the review) and 2013 (click here to read the review) I knew what to expect, a fast paced beer soaked evening — but I was surprised that I had already previously seen pretty much everything that Airbourne had to offer on this night. Don’t get me wrong, I thought that the Australians put in another fine performance but the lack of new tricks so to speak was a bit surprising. All the old staples were there and they mostly centered on frontman Joel O’Keeffe — from him hopping on a roadie’s shoulders and playing guitar while they went through the crowd, to banging beer cans on his head until they sprayed into the audience, to climbing one of the tall gigantic speakers to the side of the stage towards the end. I had seen all of it before from the band during prior stops.
That being said, the Aussie band’s AC/DC influenced music played at a faster pace and overall rocking performance was still there. Given that Airbourne played most of the songs from ‘Runnin’ Wild’ — which happens to be my favorite one from the band — I enjoyed the live selection of songs quite a bit. Just like the previous times that I had seen them perform, my favorites were the “slower” numbers such as “Chewin’ The Fat”, “Diamond In The Rough” and “Cheap Wine & Cheaper Women”. Both guitarist David Roads and bassist Justin Street were their usual energetic selves head-banging away, switching spots at the sides of the stages and generally being totally into the music and show. The star of the show was once again Joel O’Keeffe for all of the aforementioned reasons above and more. I found that this time around, the frontman did not address the crowd that much and when he did he was sometimes a bit ineffective. For instance, during one of the last songs, he seemed to indicate that he was going to split the crowd in half for some sort of sing along but he never did follow through on it. Whatever the case, Airbourne put on another high energy performance and the band’s setlist was definitely a very good one. The Aussie rockers are not to be missed when they come to your town!
01. Ready To Rock
02. Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast
03. Chewin’ The Fat
04. Diamond In The Rough
05. No Way But The Hard Way
06. Girls In Black
07. Cheap Wine & Cheaper Women
08. Black Dog Barking
09. Stand Up for Rock ‘N’ Roll
10. Live It Up
11. Runnin’ Wild