Concert Reviews

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”.

Selena Evangline Time is On Her Side

Selena Evangline Photo Credit Bill King.jpg

Submitted by Bill King

I often wonder what the outcome would be if one of our local singing icons were given the treatment lesser deserving receive on reality shows like the Voice. You imagine how a Shakura S’Aida, Divine Brown, Alanna Bridgewater would captivate and own the territory - the orbit being visibility and a worldwide hearing.

These competitions are often about what is referred to the, ‘money notes’ - a blistering succession of tones that peak somewhere near the top of a combatant’s vocal range and strike an emotional chord with an audience. Most times amateurs meander in the lower regions and are judged on a few artificial embellishments.

Selena Evangeline is empowered with a voice that resides somewhere between the practiced artistry of Dinah Washington, Whitney Houston, Gladys Knight and Jennifer Hudson. The low notes carry as much soulful grit and charm as the elevated songbird region most promising sopranos would barter with the devil for.

At an age when musicians begin to question the commitment, long hours, the grind, and disappointments;  Evangeline is beginning to see performance daylight and gathering steam much to do with fellow friends like Shakura S’Aida, who has campaigned in behalf of the talented woman a decade or so her junior. The praise and call to attention is more than well-deserved; it’s the right thing to do. No one this gifted, accomplished and passionate should be denied centre stage.

Gowan – One Kilt One Name

Gowan Photo Paul de Burger.jpg

Submitted by Sandy Graham
Photo: Paul de Burger

Going to a Gowan solo concert is definitely one for the bucket list. On Sunday October 13, 2013 the ‘Strange Animal’ with a ‘Criminal Mind’ came back to his hometown to play a solo concert at a sold out venue. All proceeds were donated to a good cause, McDermott House, a charitable organization started by longtime friend and fellow entertainer, John McDermott.  Held at the prestigious Glenn Gould Studio, located in the CBC, In Kilt Tonight was truly a night to remember.

Dancing on His Own Ground Photo Credit Andrew ClowaterDancing on His Own Ground Photo Credit Andrew ClowaterThe show was a one man band, other than the fact he honoured his Glaswegian heritage by having a group of Highland dancers run through the aisles to Scotland the Brave, decked out in kilts and leather jackets.  Meghan Bold, of the Bold Step Dancers said, “That is what happens when celtic dancers team up with a legendary rocker who happens to originally be from Scotland.  We were honoured to dance for such a talented Canadian icon, and all for a good cause McDermott House. It goes down as our coolest show ever.”

Tia McGraff Break These Chains

Break These Chains Tia McGraff.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

Canadian singer /songwriter Tia McGraff’s new body of work is maybe her finest to date. Sometimes by album number 5 an artist becomes complacent, satisfied with rehashing and redoing their past work. Same old wine in a  different bottle. Fortunately Tia has not fallen into that trap. She continues to grow and expand her talents as a songwriter and as a fine singer. McGraff has that quality, naturally, that singers strive for; believability. She sounds like she means every word she sings without being over the top. In other words the emotion in the song is genuine. That’s because Tia has learned in her songwriting to sing of what she knows and can feel,which produces the honesty in her delivery.

The opening cut, "Nighthawk" sets the mood for the 12 song collection and is a perfect lead in to the masterful “Reckonin’” and acoustic masterpiece, very southern backwoods feel, warning of the reckoning that’s coming to us all. Partner Tommy Parnham, who produced the album in conjunction with McGraff, uses his understated harmony vocals to their full potential. A perfect blend.

There is not a weak track on this album and there is a thread that runs through the whole collection. It sounds like McGraff and Parnham sat in a cabin far away from the plugged in and  busy world of the 21st century and wrote the whole album completely focused and unbothered by outside distractions.

Bobby Curtola Lights Up Parry Sound

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Submitted by Don Graham
Photo: Bobby Curtola at the Stokey Centre

Parry Sound, Ontario, on Georgian Bay in the scenic 30,000 islands, is the birthplace of Canadian treasure and hockey legend Bobby Orr. It’s safe to say that Bobby Orr pretty much is omnipresent in the town. Everywhere you go are reminders of him, pictures, signs and a museum. But for one night, August 15th, 2013,  the town belonged to another Canadian legend, another Bobby, Bobby Curtola!

Curtola and his five piece band of brothers The Sensational Hot Rods, slipped into town for a one night concert. The show was at the Stockey Centre on Bay Street in Parry Sound, a beautiful newish venue seating about 750 people. Coincidently the Stockey houses the aforementioned Bobby Orr’s Museum and souvenir shop.

Pulling up to park for the event we noticed how full the parking lot was and a glance inside the lobby let us see a huge crowd milling about, chatting excitedly about the concert. With only three or four weeks of lead time, the Stockey was sold out for The Bobby Curtola Show. Amazing how his legion of fans adore him, or I should stay, STILL adore him, fifty years into his remarkable career.

Curtola’s first big hit, the gold record selling Fortune Teller was released to radio in 1962. That’s over 50 years of staying power. This was pre Beatles, JFK was still alive and the expression “if they can put a man on the moon why can’t they…..” was not part of our everyday vocabulary.

Eagles Live at the Air Canada Centre Toronto Canada

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Submitted by Michael Williams
Photo: The Eagles Live at the ACC

Now being from Cleveland, Ohio, Joe Walsh, James Gang are part of my DNA and “The Eagles to me are pre Joe Walsh and post Joe Walsh. They started hanging out on record on ”So What” and joining him live on “You Can’t Argue With a Sick Mind” , Help Me through the Night Live’, with the Eagles on backing vocal is a classic live track that sold me .

In University my girlfriend had Linda Ronstadt’s “Heart Like a Wheel “and The Eagles “Desperado" while I was a Jackson Browne, JD Souther, Howdy Moon fan. I listened to anything that smelled like it came from California.

The Eagles “Desperado”, the ultimate hurting song and that soulful vocal thing like in “Witchy Woman”.

It was giving something I could feel…a Louisiana, Cajun Redbone Tony Joe White kind of  black swamp funk feel.The vocals were constructed in 100% Blue Eyed Soul or as JD Souther might say “white rhythm and blues” a la  Temptations, The Persuasions, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, a Motown Thing from California ! As a DJ I would always play The Eagles “One of These Nights” with The Spinners, that’s how soulful it was! I dug it and went for the whole ride from then on!

MOSQUITO-B Ramping Up For 6th UK Tour


Submitted by Alistair Sutherland

On May 16, the Quebec trio Mosquito-B stormed the Hard Rock Café in downtown Toronto, Canada, for a two-hour set of unstoppable power-pop and melodic rock. Quebecers are passionate about culture, equally passionate about music, and extremely passionate about Mosquito-B. The band arrived in Toronto with a busload of fans who made a 10-hour trek straight through from Quebec city to support their local heroes. This was made possible due to support and goodwill from Renée Ouellet and her team at the Bureau du Québec à Toronto.

The band is the brainchild of renaissance man, Dan Moisan. Published author. Songwriter. Musician. Recording / performing artist. Advertising / marketing wiz. Entrepreneur. Dan is all of these and he could have just as easily succeeded at stand-up comedy; He may joke around on stage, though when the music starts, the game changes.

They have a reputation of commanding encores as an opening act  - which is very rare, if not unique. And from the first chords to the last fading note, this phenomenon was easy to understand.

Andria Simone: El Mocambo

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Toronto ON
Photo: Andria taking a little piece of your heart...

So it’s back to the exposed bricks and minimal wall coverings at the El Mo, making it just that little bit more challenging for mixing at volume. More on this later.
The willowy and tempestuous Andria Simone was in the house to work her debut disc 'Nothing Comes Easy' and generally buff up the brand. At 23, Simone’s still young enough to pull off the hippie brat rocker personna and it’s working for her, as a dance floor of adoring young female fans attested. They stayed with Simone throughout the trip, bustin’ out to every song and singing the words to covers and originals alike with bright-eyed enthusiasm.

The Pope Knows – Carole Pope Live

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

The Canadian icon, best known for her work with long time musical partner, Kevan Staples, in the band, Rough Trade during the late 70’s and into the mid 80’s, performed April 13 at The Brass Monkey in Ottawa, Ontario.

Carole was noted to be one of the first openly lesbian entertainers in the world to achieve mainstream fame.

Thirty some years later, Carole Pope who has maintained a lower profile career, still has the voice and charisma as she had back then. Opening up her set with the “All Touch/No Contact”, the type of song that brings you right back to her rockin’ concerts in the 80’s.

“High School Confidential” with its long lived popularity quickly brought people on to the dance floor. At the time of its release, “High School Confidential” was one of the most sexually explicit songs ever to reach the Canadian pop charts, and despite the sexual ambiguity, the first with such strong lesbian overtones. Other notable songs that were performed from the Rough Trade era were “Crimes of Passion” and “Weapons”.

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