On Saturday, March 12th I made an 8 hour pilgrimage to Toronto so that I could see my favourite artists in my home province. It was truly everything I could have asked for and so much more.
I arrived in Toronto the day before so that I could get myself acquainted with the area and where The Opera House was situated. I always find it easier and less stressful if I can have an idea of location, parking options and meal options prior to the show! Luckily it was easy to navigate and there were many close parking lots and restaurants nearby so I got myself settled in the city and tried to be patient while waiting for show time.
This was the first time I would be seeing Brian Fallon and Jared Hart (who opened the show, as well as playing as a member of the Crowes) since December when I traveled to New Jersey to catch their 3 night residency at Crossroads in Garwood, so I already had an idea of how good this show had the potential to be. It was the first show I’ve seen on the Painkillers tour though as well, and the first time I’ve seen Austin Plaine, who was also a supporting act on the tour.
I intended to line up and get front row positioning at the show, and so I arrived a few hours early and ate at the restaurant attached to The Opera House, where I could actually hear part of the sound check while I ate my meal (which was delicious, by the way). The staff were so friendly to me, and asked what I would be doing to kill time before the show. I asked them about how line ups usually work there, and how early people tended to show up, especially being a sold out show– and Mimi, the woman who served me said we’d probably know by about 4pm if people would line up. The cook said it would probably be more like 6pm. Having gone to other shows in different cities where it is expected that you line up at a minimum 4-5 hours before doors to get prime barrier position, I didn’t fully trust that answer…and since I wasn’t in the city for anything more than that show, I went to line up around 3pm.
I did end up being joined by some show friends I had spoken to online between 3:30 and 4pm but that just made the line 3 people. More of a group, really. People truly didn’t actually come to line up until around 5:30 or 6pm- literally 1 hour before doors. Toronto people: you’re missing the entire line up experience!!
The Opera House is a beautiful venue, with a large balcony area and with very interesting architecture. It was actually a perfect place for a show like this, that still maintains an intimate feel while being able to accommodate a large group of people.
Jared Hart opened the show at about 8:00, and the only thing I can say is that I wish he had a longer set. He opened with “Allnighters”, originally recorded with his band The Scandals, and played a good selection of songs from Past Lives and Pass Lines, his debut solo album. I was fortunate enough to purchase that album when I was in New Jersey, so it was nice to be familiar with the material and be able to sing along! He also included a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young”, explaining that it held special significance to him. I thought his set was a great introduction for people who may not have been familiar with his music, and for those of us that did know the material, it was filled with songs that have quickly become favourites, including The Guillotine and Ditch Digger.
Austin Plaine came on following Jared, and although I’ve listened to his self-titled debut album, I’m not as familiar with it as with Jared and Brian. However, he clearly won over a whole new group of fans in Toronto! He and his band played a set that was so happy that it sparkled. You couldn’t help but smile throughout the entire set, due at least in part to his drummer, who had the most infectious and cheerful stage personality! He played a good variety of songs from his album, including “Never Come Back Again” and “Your Love”, and played a new song called “Rise Above It” which was amazing- it’s one of those songs that you didn’t know you needed until you’ve heard it, and I don’t think I was the only one who was feeling a little emotional at the conclusion of it. Unfortunately, I don’t believe a digital copy has been made available yet but in the meantime I have been able to find some video online via Youtube. He’s definitely someone that I would recommend everyone listen to- his songs are like driving with the windows down on a sunny day while a warm breeze whips through your hair.
Finally it was time for Brian and the Crowes, and you could feel the energy in the Opera House become electric as he took to the stage. Brian was in top form, and you could feel gratitude radiating from him when he thanked the crowd for taking the chance to buy tickets and sell out the venue before “Painkillers” had even come out. He played a wide variety of music from “Elsie” (his side project with Ian Perkins, released under The Horrible Crowes) and “Painkillers”, as well as a rousing cover of “Atlantic City” by the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. The Toronto audience was also treated to a full-band version of “The Blues, Mary”, a fan favourite that hasn’t found its way into many (if any) set lists during the “Painkillers” tour. The arrangement was stunning, and it was interesting to hear it played with the band when it has commonly been played acoustically and more paired down. A big part of any Brian Fallon show is his stage banter as well, and he was on fire again, cracking jokes about weather forecasts (which consequently are the same as relationship forecasts- “cloudy with a chance of rain”), Michael Jordan’s mustache, and some comments about a mutilated beer can that I still can’t stop laughing about.
“A Wonderful Life”, “Mary Ann” and “Behold the Hurricane” brought down the house, while songs like “Honey Magnolia” and “Steve Mcqueen” slowed down the frenzy a bit, but the true stand out was, let’s face it, “Smoke”. The audience truly did lose their minds in the middle of Toronto, and what a brilliant moment to be a part of.
This was definitely a show for the books, and should you have the chance to see Brian while he continues touring through the US and into Europe, I would strongly suggest you get a ticket (pending any are still available as he’s been doing a run of a sold out shows). Shows as good as this, by artists who are genuine and sincerely in their craft as Brian, Austin and Jared are hard to come by. To me, having not seen Brian and Jared since December’s Crossroads shows in Gardwood, NJ, it was truly like coming home after a long time away- at once welcoming, exciting and comforting.
Here are the current tour dates so you can experience this tour for yourself:
*You can check out music by Jared Hart on Spotify, and you can purchase the album “Past Lives and Pass Lines” here or here (at the second link you can name your price but please do the right thing and pay fairly, the album is gorgeous and the artist is well worth supporting)
*You can listen to Austin Plaine on Spotify, and purchase his self titled debut album here
*”Painkillers” by Brian Fallon can be streamed on Spotify, and purchased here
Were you at this show? I’d love to hear about your experience as well in the comments below 🙂
Photos are mine unless otherwise stated. I’m always happy to share, but please contact me before using any photos provided.