I once again happened to be in Toronto as The Trews closed the summer concert series at the Canadian National Exhibition, and I couldn’t pass the opportunity to see one of my favourite bands live.
The evening started with Birds of Bellwoods, an alt-folk/rock band from Toronto. The band weaves in and out of folk sounds, with banjo and mandolin playing central roles in some of the songs, and into straight out rock. If at times they seem over ambitious in the complexity of their arrangments, for the most part their music has a polished edge that you might not expect from a young band. I loved their set, and it was a great setup for The Trews.
The headliners kicked off their set with “I Can’t Stop Laughing”, and the party was on: it’s hard to imagine anyone not giving in to the song’s entusiastic Irish swagger. The band played material from its entire career, and offered five tracks from its upcoming album “Civiliannaires”. Three of those tracks have already been released, so they weren’t totally unknown to the fans in attendance at the Ex. Producer Derek Hoffman joined them midset for three of those, and would return during the encore.
Singer/guitarist Colin MacDonald seemed under the weather, especially during the first quarter of the show, but if he was battling an illness, nothing showed in his performance as he sang his heart out (pun intended) on classic tune after classic tune. Old songs were spruced up with new arrangements, and as usual, the band had fun weaving in snippets of cover tunes like the Rolling Stones’ “Child of the Moon” that found its way into “Sing Your Heart Out”, or Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” showing up in “Paranoid Freak”.
New drummer Chris Gormley is a welcome addition to the band, and his playing is better suited to the songs than the man he replaced behind the kit. Guitarist John-Angus Macdonald was working his magic up and down the fretboard of his trusted Les Paul guitar, while bass player Jack Syperek quietly locked in the groove. Saying the band sounded fantastic seems superfluous: The Trews always transcend their material live, and this night was no exception.
The last stretch of the concert saw the band line up its first hit “Not Ready to Go”, “So She’s Leaving” (accidental conceptual segment on departure?), “Highway of Heroes” and the always fantastic “Poor ‘Ol Broken Hearted Me”, with the frantic ending that has become a staple of their live show. The clock was nearing the 10PM curfew but The Trews squeezed in two songs for the encore, playing “Bar Star” and “Hold Me In Your Arms”.
It was a great night of Canadian rock, and I wish I could do it again today. And tomorrow. Hey, I’m free Friday too.
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