Concert Reviews

The Strumbellas with The Zolas at the Danforth Music Hall

Photographs by Randall Vasquez.

We hear it all the time: it’s the giving that matters.  The Strumbellas took this notion to heart by giving their Toronto fans 3 concerts within 36 hours.  On top of two consecutive nights at the Danforth Music Hall, they also scheduled a matinee, all-ages show for their younger fans, proving they are a band with generous hearts.

Thursday’s show opened with Vancouver band The Zolas.  Channelling the New Wave synth pop of the ‘80s, and adding a modern-day sensibility, the band is deft with a catchy tune.  There were plenty of Zolas fans in the audience and they had a nice long 45 minute set to sway any newcomers to their brand of pop.  

Between acts, a beautiful, giant silk screen was unfurled to sit as a backdrop for the show.  It depicted the album cover for Hope, the Strumbellas’ most recent record.  The stage had a canopy of Edison lights strung to give the air of an outdoor country fair.  When the house lights dimmed and the Price is Right theme song filled the room, it was show time.  The six members of the Strumbellas hit the stage and the folk-rock-indie-alt-roots fun began.  Song after song, the band brought the room along for a ride that allowed for music appreciation with a dose of participation.  A few songs in, they played We Don’t Know and got the room bouncing.  Based in Toronto, violinist/vocalist Izzy Ritchie mentioned that she lives on the Danforth, and can see the Music Hall from her window – perhaps enhancing the kitchen ceilidh feel of the night.  Keyboardist, Dave Ritter talked about the band’s “crazy year” stating that “Toronto is the city that’s always supported us.”  

Lead vocalist, Simon Ward, got the crowd to dullen their chatter for a moment as The Strumbellas, went off mic and sang The Fire standing shoulder to shoulder across the front of the stage.  It sparked a lot of shushing at first, but ended in a magical chorus of everyone’s voices filling the room.  The energy was raised yet another notch with In This Life, from their breakthrough record We Still Move on Dance Floors.  The main set ended with their biggest hit to date, Spirits. The song has tapped into the spirit of the times, becoming a world-wide hit.  The remarkably relatable refrain “And I don’t want a never-ending life, I just want to be alive while I’m here” felt more like a unifying, generational motto than a lyric when sung out loud at full voice by the entire hall.

The encore came with a slight costume change – the appearance of a Santa hat on Ward’s head.  It also brought more opportunities for sing-alongs.  The final song of the evening was the song that gave them their break in Canada, Sailing.  It had the crowd happy as they sailed off into the night; leaving the Strumbellas time for a wee breather, before their next show.

About author

From folk to pop to punk, Neloufer believes that music matters; that it is almost as vital as oxygen. She also has a deep love of language, et voilà! - music reviewer.