Photos by Neil Van
If you were taking a late night stroll along Queen Street West, you may have become partially overwhelmed by the crowd of people that wrapped around a block and a half at the Velvet Underground. Gabrielle Aplin was in town for the first time in quite a few years, and she brought two fantastic opening acts along for the ride.
The first artist to take the stage was John Splithoff, backed by a drummer and keyboardist took the crowd by surprise. He had a very upbeat and electronic pop sound that was then magnified with Splithoff’s soulful vocals. Not only is he an incredible vocalist but also he is also quite the guitarist. He got everyone to buy what he was selling by the end of the first song. He has written a lot of songs that talk about never giving up, the trials and tribulations of breakups and still wanting someone from long ago. One of my personal favourite songs was entitled “What if She Wants You”. For a singer/songwriter who only has a few songs available on Spotify right now, I have no doubt in my mind that his first EP will turn some heads and draw so much warranted attention.
When the next duo took the stage, the reaction that they gathered from quite a larger section of the crowd took them by a bit of a surprise. The two brothers Harry and Alfie aka Hudson Taylor enchanted everyone with their Irish accents, acoustic guitars and incredible harmonies. They had told the crowd that they had never performed in Canada before but were so excited to be not only in Toronto, but to be at Velvet Underground. Their entire set was stripped down and acoustic, which added to their originality and authenticity. With songs like: “Chasing Rubies” and “Care” I found myself enthralled the entire time.
I personally think sometimes think folk singer/songwriters are underappreciated in North America, so for me personally Hudson Taylor was a breath of fresh air. When they completed their set I immediately wanted more. They asked everyone if they returned to do their own show, would people come see them, and every single person screamed, “Yes” in unison, and we hold heartedly meant it. With their new EP dropping March 23rd, one can only hope a summer tour is in the works.
It was finally time for Gabrielle Aplin to take the stage. Going into the show, I was super excited that she was also going to be playing stripped down versions of her songs on both the piano and guitar. Aplin is one of the most wholesome and genuine people I’ve ever seen on stage. In between each song she chatted with the crowd, and responded when they would yell songs at her to play next, all while sipping tea. If you are a fan of Gabrielle you know she is an incredible vocalist, and experiencing everything stripped down and raw is more than you could ever imagine. With songs like “Salvation” and “Please Don’t Say You Love Me” from her debut album English Rain you could feel every single emotion and it left you in goose bumps.
Hudson Taylor returned to the stage for a few duets including: “Coming Home” from Aplin’s second album Light Up The Dark. It was a perfect way to lead into the wrap up of the night. Gabrielle was so overwhelmed by all the love and support, and promised to be back again very soon. To say goodbye, she closed her set with a stripped down version of “Miss You” from her newest EP of the very same title. For over two hours everything outside the Velvet Underground faded away, these artists were truly captivating in every single way.