Photos by Dawn Hamilton
KONGOS, the multi-talented brothers from South Africa, came back to Toronto after only a few months away to promote their new album Egomaniac and inspire awe at the Danforth Music Hall. If you haven’t been, it’s really a wonderful venue. In addition to being a Toronto establishment that still sells tall cans, the acoustics are great, and there is plenty of both seating and floor space to suit anyone’s needs. I barely even minded it being an All Ages show, because there was enough space that you could just move elsewhere if the rambunctious youth bothered you. At least, that’s what I assume the people behind me kept doing.
Opening for KONGOS was The Joy Formidable, a wonderful three-piece outfit from North Wales that, to put it lightly, really know how to rock. Bassist Rhydian Dafydd probably ran about a kilometre over the course of their 7 song set, visiting drummer Matt Thomas (the one, true master of making funny faces) and the crowd on the other side of the stage in equal measure. Between songs, lead singer and guitarist Ritzy Bryan struck up great conversations with the crowd about the Welsh language and her love of goats. They tore it up, and I would absolutely recommend seeing them in the future.
Before KONGOS even stepped on stage, it was very obvious that we were in for a treat. In addition to 3 massive screens and at least a dozen lights, the stage was decked out in all manner of gadgets and gear that was sure to surprise. During their song “Hey, I Don’t Know”, GoPro cameras captured them live and projected their neon silhouettes on the screens behind them for a truly epic scene. The light show was also spectacular, and absolutely appropriate for the Egomania theme. I’m not certain whether the red, white, and blue lights during the aptly-titled “I Want it Free” were an intentional jib at our southern neighbours, but I sure got a chuckle out of it.
One of my favourite things about KONGOS is their lack of an apparent “leader”. For Egomaniac, every brother wrote at least one song, and they all take turns singing lead and backing vocals. It gives their music fantastic variety, as each band member really has something unique to contribute. When they aren’t taking their turn to serenade the crowd, they tear it up on their own instruments. Johnny Kongos and his lovely beard provided the band’s signature accordion sound and laid down some of the thick keyboard riffs that really pull the music together. Jesse Kongos annihilated on the drums during the crowd favourites “Come With Me Now” and “I’m Only Joking” (both of which he also sings on, impressively). Dylan and Daniel Kongos, bassist and guitarist respectively, both effortlessly transitioned between singing and strumming, and even traded instruments once or twice to keep the audience on their toes.
The setlist was everything we could have wanted and more. They played an amazing cover of The Beatles’ “Get Back” mashed up with riffs from Daft Punk’s “Da Funk” and featuring a spectacular rap interlude by stage manager Moe Gordy. The band ended the set with the explosive “I’m Only Joking”, complete with smoke rings being blasted out over the crowd in sync with Jesse singing “What are you smoking?” For an encore, they played the relaxing “Escape”, then closed with another incredible cover, this one of New Order’s “Blue Monday”. It was definitely an evening to remember, hopefully the boys will be back in Toronto again soon.
The Joy Formidable Setlist:
The Greatest Light Is the Greatest Shade
Y Garreg Ateb
The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie
Repeat After Me
Hey, I Don’t Know
Where I Belong
I Don’t Mind
I Want It Free
The World Would Run Better
Get Back/Da Funk (Beatles/Daft Punk mashup)
It’s a Good Life
Come With Me Now
Birds Do It
I Wanna Know
Take It From Me
I’m Only Joking
Blue Monday (New Order cover)