Photographs by Katrina Wong Shue.
There were rumors outside of the Danforth Music Hall that Anton Newcombe and his Brian Jonestown Massacre would play a three hour set. I think most didn’t believe it, sure they hoped for it, but most figured the volatile band would implode long before three hours. The documentary Dig! would explain this trepidation.
However, the trepidation would prove to be fiction as Newcombe and his six cohorts would defy expectations with a thorough working through their vast discography. While the show was sold out, it was obvious that everyone didn’t get the memo on the show’s length (or simply didn’t believe it) when the band hit the stage promptly at 8 to a sparsely populated room.
Opening with “Never, Ever” the band delivered an awesome sounding set and playing tracks that was any BJM-fanatic’s wet dream, covering over two dozen tracks from the past and some new songs. The lighting wasn’t too elaborate, but just enough not to be bare bones nor overbearing to the point of overshadowing their Velvet Underground meets Spacemen 3 songs.
By 9, the usual headliner start time for the Music Hall, the venue was packed, hot and full of hot messes. The inebriated crowd lapped everything up and was more reminiscent of a jolly bar brawl about to happen. They were surprisingly rowdy for a Thursday Toronto crowd.
Newcombe, initially quiet, became chatty about an hour in complaining about not being able to smoke, warning of the more devastating effects of the Fukishima disaster, a mild dressing down of the band for screwing something up and announcing the impending release of two albums this year.
Local musician Tess Parks joined the band for a couple of songs including the upcoming “Groove Is In The Heart” a pulsing driving song reminiscent of the Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Sidewalking”. Even Newcombe’s wife joined in on the fun coming out to sing a song. The focal point and arguable star of the night was tambourine player Joel Gion who impressed and never lost his groove.
As volume levels went up over the course of the night, the set just got more thrilling coming to a close almost three hours later with “She’s Gone”. To ask for more of the evening would be nit-picking as to play everyone’s faves would have had everyone there all night. I’m sure most wouldn’t mind but the Music Hall’s sloped floors are not conducive to a comfortable experience for an extended period of time, especially for the olds which made up a healthy chunk of the crowd. But it really only felt like it was slightly over an hour and was easily the best I’ve seen the band.