Concert Reviews

Nikki Yanofsky at Massey Hall

Photographs by Sean Chin. 

As crazy as this is going to sound, Nikki Yanofsky has come a long way since 2010. You’d think there’d be nowhere to go but down after performing in front of a billion people at the Olympics as a fresh-faced teen, but the lovely Montreal native has continued to blossom to the point where she is poised to become our country’s next great music export.

You could even say she made a believer out of this self-proclaimed rock music enthusiast.

Her chart-topping “I Believe” was surprisingly nowhere to be heard as Yanofsky dazzled through a 20+ song evening at Massey Hall, the equally-historic Toronto venue that was already 100 years ago when she was born in 1994. Despite the glaring age difference, it’s like Massey was tailor-made to accommodate and accentuate the young chanteuse’s extensive vocal range.

It was an interesting crowd assembled on January 24th, principally made up of older, respectful jazz appreciators in the Diana Krall and Joni Mitchell mold. A good deal of them had their much more vociferous little ragamuffins in tow, many of whom appeared as if they should be in school with Yanofsky, that is if she wasn’t busy being tutored by the one and only Quincy Jones. He’s known a few talents in his day, I hear.

As one would have guessed correctly, it was the Jones-produced album Little Secret that was prominently showcased, their collaborative effort to bridge the gap between old-fashioned standards and upbeat, contemporary pop. Yanofsky is still learning the ropes of what it takes to be a headline entertainer, although it’s obvious she is a VERY eager student. Personally, I didn’t feel diversionary things such as short short skirts and black knee-high boots that would make Lana Del Rey jealous were necessary whatsoever. Whereas I feel how some female artists almost purposely put themselves behind the eight ball by emphasizing image over any talent they may actually have, with Yanofsky it’s always been about her extraordinary singing (not to mention inspiring), something I hope keeps up for a long, long time. You may be a beautiful girl about to turn 21 in a few weeks, but there shouldn’t be an uphill battle to fight Nikki!

I seriously need to give Little Secret a critical listen, as I was amazed at the emotional reaction of several renditions, namely “Necessary Evil” and “Bang”, the latter song she perkily joked could be the next James Bond theme. Her split set was also balanced with a handful of impressive covers. Even though Yanofsky claimed French language inelegance, “C’est si bon” was absolutely nailed. Another highlight was the gorgeously done “I’m Not the Only One” by Sam Smith, with minimal accompaniment from guitarist Steve Maxwell. Mark Ronson’s raucous “Uptown Funk” made full use of the 7-member backing band, and got the stoic Massey Hall attendees out of their rickety seats and up dancing to wind down the night. Frankly, it put Bruno Mars to shame too.

In an extremely un-diva move, the personable Yanofsky invited fans to the subterranean Centuries Lounge for an impromptu meet and greet that seemingly everyone took advantage of. Amid all the autographs and selfie requests, the soloist shared with me how she had the most amazing time, and that the energy in Massey Hall was crazy. You’re the one who’s crazy, Nikki…crazy-good that is. I’m the last person who needs to tell you this, but keep this up, you’re gonna go far kid.

Download Little Secret by Nikki Yanofsky on iTunes.

Thanks to Live Nation Ontario for media access.

About author

Gilles LeBlanc literally fell into “alternative rock” way back at Lollapalooza 1992, where he got caught in his first mosh pit watching some band named Pearl Jam. Since then, he’s spent the better part of his life looking for music to match the liberating rush he felt that day, with a particular chest-beating emphasis on stuff coming out of his native Canada. You can follow his alter ego on Twitter: @ROCKthusiast.