Coney Hatch w/ Stuck On Planet Earth live at El Mocambo in Toronto, ON, Canada Concert Review

CONEY HATCH PERFORM DEBUT ALBUM LIVE TO FAITHFUL HOMETOWN FANS

Date: December 29, 2022
Venue: El Mocambo
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Reviewer: Olivier
Photos: Olivier

I was close to going to see Coney Hatch play at the legendary El Mocambo a couple of years ago when the group had previously announced that it was going to record that show for a live album but I never did see them play. I know what held me back that time but this time around, I decided to take the $50.00+ Cdn plunge and check out the iconic Canadian rockers in a live setting. The reason why I had never seen Coney Hatch play live before was simply because I only really knew (or so I thought) one song from the band…

Back when I was a kid mostly listening to / watching Much Music‘s Power Hour (one hour of hard rock / heavy metal videos each week) on television in or about 1986, they would sometimes throw in an older video from a Canadian band named Coney Hatch. The video in question was for the song “Devil’s Deck” and although I really liked it, I never bothered seeking out and discovering any additional material from the band. I think part of the reason is that the video for “Devil’s Deck” looked pretty old even though it only dated back to 1982 so I just assumed that this was an older ’70s band with one catchy song. Don’t forget that there was a huge progression in videos from the early ’80s (remember the basic videos for Judas Priest‘s “Breaking The Law” or KISS‘ “I Was Made For Loving You”) to what was coming out in 1986.

Of course, over the years, I learned a lot more about Coney Hatch. I remember in particular Skid, Sleaze Roxx‘s founder and editor-in-chief at the time, writing a rare concert review in 2014 about Coney Hatch playing the rather tiny “city” of Brandon (with a population of about 50,000) in the province of Manitoba, which is about halfway across Canada and where most better known bands would likely never play. What made me remember that concert review in particular was that Skid had written it and also that Coney Hatch ended up playing an acoustic set in the pitch darkness to about 100 people after the power went out at the venue in question. Eventually, I learned that Coney Hatch had released three albums in the ’80s — Coney Hatch in 1982, Outa Hand in 1983 and Friction in 1985 — before reuniting in 2010 and releasing one more album (Four) in 2013. I also learned that Coney Hatch frontman Carl Dixon had been involved in a very serious car accident in Australia back in 2008 where he sustained a traumatic brain injury. Dixon had also played with April Wine and The Guess Who, and has become along the way a motivational speaker.

Despite all this acquired information with respect to Coney Hatch, my main issue still remained that I only knew one song from the band — “Devil’s Deck.” With Coney Hatch set to play the legendary El Mocambo once again and advertising that they were going to be playing their debut album in its entirety this time out to celebrate the 40th year anniversary of that record, the solution seemed obvious. I would purchase a copy of Coney Hatch‘s debut self-titled album to become familiar with their tunes in time for the concert. I was also going to pick up a copy of Coney Hatch‘s “greatest hits album” Best of Three (1992) but it became obvious that Amazon would not deliver that record in a timely manner. So I ended up just purchasing the debut album and I was pleased to see that it later got the Rock Candy Records treatment with an awesome CD booklet and three extra bonus tracks. Sadly, with the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2022 slated to be published on December 31st, I just didn’t have time to listen to Coney Hatch as much as I wanted to since I was trying to make sure that I had listened to all the new releases in 2022.

With less than 12 hours to go before Coney Hatch‘s show at the El Mocambo, I was able to listen to the band’s debut album a couple of times to familiarize myself with those songs. And on the way to the venue, it suddenly dawned on me that Coney Hatch wouldn’t just play the ten songs from that debut record so as I was driving, I listened to other songs that Coney Hatch had videos for including “Blown Away”, “Fantasy”, Girl From Last Night’s Dream”, “Shake It” and “First Time For Everything.” There was only one other time that I can recall where I attended a concert while barely knowing the band in question’s songs and that was to see The Warning back in June 2022. It had also been a long time since I arrived at a venue before the doors actually opened. The last time that I can recall (aside from rock festivals) was way back in October 2014 when my friend Rich “The Meister” Dillon and I made the trek to Rochester, New York, USA to see Judas Priest (with Steel Panther) opening. I would say there were about 40 people ahead of me outside the El Mocambo venue, which is located in the heart of “China Town” on the iconic Spadina Avenue. The people in the line-up consisted mainly of middle aged men (like myself) which is not a surprise since Coney Hatch‘s glory days date back to the early ’80s.

This was my first time at the legendary El Mocambo venue, which first opened in 1948. The venue gained a lot of notoriety when The Rolling Stones played a surprise gig there back in 1977. I am not sure why I had never been to the venue before aside that it appears that they haven’t booked many ’80s era bands in the last 10 years. In fact, the El Mocambo was supposed to close in or about later 2014 but I understand from reading Wikipedia that a gentleman by the name of Michael [presumably his last name is Wekerle] bought the venue for $3.8 million and about $30 million in renovations were then invested into the club. I have to say that the El Mocambo is definitely one of the nicest venues that I have ever seen. People who had purchased general admission tickets were ushered into the second floor while VIP ticket holders got to go up to the balcony on the third floor where they could sit while looking downwards to the stage. Given that the El Mocambo is inside a rather narrow but deep building, the stage was placed at one corner in the middle of the rectangular shaped venue so there actually was only room for perhaps ten rows of people from the stage to the back of the venue.

Stuck On Planet Earth

As I walked into the venue, I was pleased to see that there were still spots right next to the front of the stage so I quickly parked myself in one of those spots. The doors had opened pretty much at 8:00 pm as advertised and I knew that the show was supposed to start at 9:00 pm. It appeared that there would be no opening act since the stage set up seemed to be for the Coney Hatch members and everything looked ready to go. However, all of a sudden, three black clad gentlemen made their way onto the stage. Two of them had acoustic guitars with them. I have to admit that my first thought was something along the lines of ‘Fuck! There is an opening act. That sucks.’

One of the two guitarists quickly explained that they were the “acoustic warm up” for the evening before he started strumming his guitar. I was quite impressed with the first song played. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the names of any of the songs that they played even though the singer introduced most of the ones that they played. What I do recall is that one of the members explained that they started out playing acoustic gigs in high schools throughout southern Ontario but they were actually a full on plugged in type of band. However, a little research on the band via Wikipedia indicates that the Stuck on Planet Earth consists of lead vocalist / bassist Al Capo, guitarist Adam Bianchi and drummer Andrew Tesla, and that they have been around since 2007.

While Stuck On Planet Earth‘s music is normally not what I would gravitate to, the musicianship displayed by the trio was second to none. Capo‘s lead vocals were very impressive and Bianchi backed him up really well on background vocals. I found myself singing along to a couple of their songs even though I hadn’t heard any of them beforehand. A little search on YouTube confirms that they must have played “Ghost On The Radio”, “Permanent”, “Strange” and probably my favorite from their live repertoire on this night  “Rising” since I am able to recognize all these songs when I play the YouTube videos. A lot of credit has to go to the Stuck On Planet Earth for making such a strong impression that I am able to identify many of their plugged in songs from their YouTube videos after hearing them once in a live acoustic setting. Stuck On Planet Earth‘s songs are quite catchy with the choruses easy to sing along to and a sometimes U2 feel to the guitar playing.

How good were Stuck On Planet Earth on this night? While I was initially not pleased to see them take the stage at the beginning of their set, I was disappointed to hear when they announced that they only had one more song to play at the end of their set. I thoroughly enjoyed Stuck On Planet Earth‘s set and would definitely be up to seeing them play again in a live setting. Funny enough, I still have their catchy chorus from their song “Rising” playing in my mind from time to time.

Coney Hatch

I believe that Stuck On Planet Earth got off the stage at about 9:11 pm or so, and I was actually grateful that they entertained the audience for however long their set was. It sure beat standing around in one spot waiting for Coney Hatch to take the stage. It didn’t take long for the Coney Hatch members consisting of frontman Carl Dixon, bassist Andy Curran, drummer Dave Ketchum and lead guitarist Sean Kelly to take the stage. All four walked up the stage and got settled in before launching into the one song that I knew really well — “Devil’s Deck.” To say that the audience was pro Coney Hatch would likely be an understatement. The El Mocambo, which has a capacity of 400 people, was filled with people here to see Coney Hatch. At times, it felt like Coney Hatch were just playing to a room of their 400 closest friends rather than a concert audience. You could see Curran and Dixon making eye contact with and smiling to many people that they obviously knew from before.

Coney Hatch performing “Devil’s Deck” live at the El Mocambo in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 29, 2022 (video from Gordon Enright‘s YouTube page):

From then on, either Dixon or Curran advised the audience that they were here to play their debut self-titled album in its entirety and then they had a few extra songs they wanted to throw in. Judging from the handwritten setlist posted at various parts of the stage floor, it seemed that it would be a long (and great) night of rock n’ roll as I counted 19 songs! I have to say that the songs from Coney Hatch‘s debut record sounded a lot better live than they did on their studio album released more than 40 years ago and I think the reason why is that the songs sounded a little heavier live. And hey, let’s face it, most albums from the early ’80s tend to sound a little dated. I did have an epiphany while watching Coney Hatch perform because I had never realized that the band has not one but two lead vocalists. I was really surprised to see bassist Andy Curran handle the lead vocals on the third song of the night — “Stand Up” — as well as several others including the debut album closer “Monkey Bars.” That made sense since when I was previously listening to some of the songs off the debut record, it seemed that the singing was quite different on certain tracks including “Stand.”

Speaking of Curran, I have only heard and read great things about him (same thing for Dixon). It certainly felt like he was the leader, if not one of the leaders, of the band. Curran had some great stories to tell including that Canadian legend Kim Mitchell produced the band’s debut album. Curran recalled that Mitchell indicated that he wouldn’t charge the band members but they still had to pay for the studio time. The Coney Hatch band members obviously did not have the money so they ended up borrowing some money from Curran‘s now departed father via a promissory note (how many Sleaze Roxx readers even know what that is?). Curran joked that by the time the Coney Hatch members paid his Dad back as well as lawyers from their record advance, they only had lint left over. Curran also added that they were then always at his Dad‘s demand at shows and his Dad would always request to hear the “barn burner” also known as the rocking track “We Got The Night.” Apparently, Curran‘s Dad really loved Dave Ketchum‘s drumming on the song.

Coney Hatch performing “We Got The Night” live at the El Mocambo in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 29, 2022 (video from shits and giggles‘ YouTube page):

The one song from Coney Hatch that I was quite familiar with (but that I didn’t know was performed by the band) was up next. For many people, the track “Hey Operator” is affiliated with Canadian artist Aldo Nova who covered the song on his 1983 album Subject…Aldo Nova. In any case, once I realized that “Hey Operator” was actually written by Dixon and on Coney Hatch‘s debut album, I realized that I knew two songs from the debut quite well (with the other being “Devil’s Deck”) going into the concert that night. Before long, Coney Hatch had finished performing their debut self-titled album, which featured the closing track “Monkey Bars” sung by Curran and which Dixon described as one of the band’s most requested songs. While introducing “Monkey Bars”, Dixon noted that he, Curran and Ketchum have been friends for 40 years. He joked that the “new guy” [i.e., guitarist Sean Kelly] had only been around for 15 to 20 years and jokingly referred to him as “Junior.”

The Coney Hatch members also took time to present a signed plaque with the cover of their debut album to the El Mocambo venue owner Michael [presumably his last name is Wekerle]. Dixon or Curran explained that a large pat of why they went way back to play at the El Mocambo, beside that it is a spectacular venue, is due to its owner who apparently worked for Coney Hatch (I think as a roadie) back in the ’80s. Before receiving the plaque, the venue owner Michael was presented with some vintage leg warmers because apparently he used to wear those back in the day. I have to say that I hadn’t seen leg warmers in a long time and never did wear those ugly things back in the ’80s. In any case, it was a nice touch to throw in some humour during the plaque presentation.

Coney Hatch performing “Monkey Bars” live at the El Mocambo in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 29, 2022 (video from shits and giggles‘ YouTube page):

It was now time for some Coney Hatch songs other than from the debut album. Dixon mentioned that they had two new songs that would be appearing on an upcoming live album that would be released — if I recall correctly — in the coming weeks. One of the new songs was “It’s About A Girl” which sounded pretty good on a first listen. I wasn’t familiar with any of the other tracks played by Coney Hatch (except “Blown Away” which I had just heard in my car via a YouTube video in the hour preceding the show and possibly when the video first was released) but they all sounded quite good although I wasn’t crazy about the ballad “To Feel The Feeling Again.” But hey, when I have ever been that crazy about any ballad? I noticed that Coney Hatch skipped the song “Wrong Side of Town” which was listed on their setlist. My favorite Coney Hatch song other than from the debut album that were played on this night was definitely the riff oriented and catchy “Blown Away” which shows in my mind, that Coney Hatch still have a lot of good material left in them if they continue to release new music.

Funny enough, some bras, panties and even a bra pad starting getting thrown on stage towards the latter portions of the venue which likely brought some ’80s memories for Curran, Dixon and Ketchum. After leaving the stage briefly for a few minutes, the Coney Hatch band members made their way back on stage for two encores. Before launching into their encores, Curran noted that this the first time that Coney Hatch had ever played their debut album in running order in a live setting. The first encore was their cover of Angel City‘s “Marseilles” which they have been playing since the “Gasworks days.” For those who don’t know, the Gasworks was a rocking “heavy metal” bar back in the ’80s, which was even mentioned by actor Mike Meyers in the movie Wayne’s World. Coney Hatch closed off their brilliant set with “Girl From Last Night’s Dream” which Dixon noted has turned out to be a crowd favorite over the years.

I was really impressed with Coney Hatch‘s live performance. I had a great time despite not being that familiar with most of their songs. At one point during the night, Curran mentioned to me and a few others in my vicinity that he was “rocking so hard” that he had to retie or rezip his running shoes. It was a funny moment but I have to agree that the Coney Hatch band members put on a really rocking show for their faithful fans at the legendary El Mocambo. If you can get the chance to see Coney Hatch live, don’t hesitate to do so.

Coney Hatch’s setlist:
01. Devil’s Deck
02. You Ain’t Got Me
03. Stand Up
04. No Sleep Tonight
05. Love Poison
06. We Got The Night
07. Hey Operator
08. I’ll Do the Talkin’
09. Victim of Rock
10. Monkey Bars
11. It’s About A Girl
12. To Feel The Feeling Again
13. Boys Club
14. First Time For Everything
15. Fallen Angel
16. Blown Away
Encores:
17. Marseilles
18. Girl From Last Night’s Dream

Coney Hatch performing “Marseilles” live at the El Mocambo in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 29, 2022 (video from shits and giggles‘ YouTube page):