Photos by Randall Vasquez.
Recently a certain ticketing website has been getting a lot of press about the inability to purchase tickets to shows, but for this tour the headliner went on twitter to announce that a new block of tickets had just gone on sale, curious since you could still easily get tickets to any section of the Air Canada Centre if you wanted. Perhaps it meant that the show would be less than full, or that the normal screams that fill the stadium would be subdued. It was indeed not a complete sell out show, but that didn’t stop the fans in attendance from making so much noise that it scared me to think what a 100% capacity show would be like.
Opening the night was Brooklyn synth-hop-rockers Matt and Kim, hoping to utilize their opening slot to blow up past the hipster and festival fans that normally attend their shows. It seemed like a curious pick to have them open an all ages stadium show as their sets are usually more rated R than PG. Although it seemed like they toned down their act when they came out to a censored version of Pharoahe Monch’s dirty classic Simon Says as keyboardist and lead singer Matt Johnson threw some band merch into the crowd. Hoping to maximize their short time slot the band jumped right into Make a Mess from their latest album, 2015’s New Glow. Half way through the song they broke it down by playing the famous riff from AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, a song that probably went over the heads of most of the crowd that consisted mainly of teenage girls or kids being chaperoned by their parents. The band talked about how much they loved being back in Toronto, having played back in May of last year, and how it was their favourite Canadian city.
The venue was quite frigid, so much so that drummer Kim Schifino remarked that it was “titty cold, I might poke someone’s eye out” a sentiment that proved that you can’t make a band more mature just by putting them on a family friendly tour. The band played many of their singles including Cameras, Let’s Go and Get It. They got the crowd very much involved, getting them to raise their hands and bounce them to the beat and even getting the modest floor section to dance around to their tunes. They did their usual breakdowns of having mini dance parties set to songs like Party Up (DMX), All I Do Is Win (DJ Khaled) and Schifino’s favourite Yonce (Beyonce) as she twerked across the small platform stage they had set up. While the band’s references and interludes made have gone over the crowd’s heads, they probably were able to connect to the looping images shown on the screens, considering we live in a world where gifs, Vines and Boomerang’s are how young people communicate. The band finished off their set with their biggest hit, Daylight, followed by It’s Alright. The duo thanked the crowd for being so engaged and hoped they liked what they heard as the succeeded in doing exactly what an opening act is supposed to do; make people pumped up for the headliner.
After Matt and Kim finished, two large Ellie Goulding banners stretching across the stage were revealed, covering the work that an army was conducted to set up the stage for the headlining act. After a short period of time, the lights went black and the giant banners fell silently to the ground revealing a massive platform stage that ran the length of the stage with the back being raised. The band was set up across this large stage set up giving the audience the ability to see the backing musicians. The set was heavy on cuts from Goulding’s latest release, 2015’s Delirium, as she came out to The Intro, which lead directly into Aftertaste, just as it appears on the record. For most of the show Goulding stood directly in front of the large platform, allowing her to dance across the stage with her four male back up dancers. Goulding, keen to prove her pop star diva status utilized a stadium tour to her advantage, including having plenty of costume changes. She started the set wearing tight black shorts covered in fringe dancing specifically to show them off, which included lots of hip shaking.
For Something in the Way You Move, Goulding’s muscular cohorts did their best break dancing moves in order to win her affection, each trying to one up another with a mix of flares, tumbles and cart wheels. To mix things up she even played two Calvin Harris songs that she is the guest vocalist on, including Outside and Need Your Love, both of which turned the ACC into a night club raging with smoke shooting in front of the stage and a beat so fast it was impossible not to jump up and down to. Goulding thanked the crowd for coming out and explained that it was the second to last show of her tour making it seem like an extra special occasion. The pace was slowed down a bit as she brought out an acoustic guitar to play Devotion, an easy highlight of the show as she reminded people why she has a massive fan base as her smoky raspy vocals soared over the venue with nothing but the simple plucking of her guitar strings as accompaniment, harkening back to her early days.
For one of her later costume changes, Goulding came out wearing a long white flowing dress as she sang Explosions from her second album, 2012’s Halcyon. The crowd screamed out as every new song started, showing their excitement, but nothing must have beat the young teenage girl sitting in front of me who was accompanied by her parents. For the opening notes of almost every new song she would squeal and yell at her father that it was her favourite song as she interpretive danced and sang along. Goulding only played one song from her debut record 2010’s Lights as she played the title song with just a piano backing her.
For Figure 8, Goulding came out dressed as a disco biker with a black leather jacket that sparkled in the light, as she aggressively played her black electric guitar showing she can rock out with the rest of the big name rock acts. For the revenge themed On My Mind her dancers came out with ‘diamond’ encrusted baseball bats to show off how tough they are, strutting around and swinging away the haters and Goulding’s imaginary ex-lover (Ed Sheeran?). The set was finished with the song Burn, with screams so loud at this point earplugs did little good.
After a quick break, Ellie Goulding and her band came back out, Goulding now wearing an OVO Raptors bomber jacket (something that would make other crowds go crazy for) as it was all but ignored by the audience. She roared into possibly her most famous song Anything Can Happen from Halcyon, as the crowd sang along sending chills down your spine. The night finished with Love Me Like You Do, the 50 Shades of Grey song that should have been nominated for an Oscar instead of The Weeknd’s Earned It. In light of recent events in Orlando, along with its positive love theme, the main video screens turned into a rainbow and the side screens have a pair of hands making a heart shape, also rainbow coloured, making for a touching tribute to our friends in the LGBTQ community. As the song hit its crescendo, white confetti sprayed into the crowds as everyone danced around singing along with the words. It was impossible not to feel giddy and in awe watching the performance as Goulding put on a top notch show supported by an impressive group of musicians and very talented dancers. While the show wasn’t a sellout, it didn’t matter as those in attendance got way more than they paid for.