One of my favourite moments in last night’s blazing celebration of rock at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre was not even a musical one, and yet it perfectly illustrates what this night was about.
And it’s only because of my vantage point up close and to the right of the stage that I was able to see it. During Death From Above’s set, they brought out The Beaches drummer Eliza Enman-McDaniel to get behind the kit for a song. As she sat there, awaiting her moment to shine, Beaches guitarist/keyboardist Leandra Earl came out into the photographers’ pit and filmed Eliza with her phone, excitedly jumping up and down and flashing the peace sign at her band mate, who flashed one back, with a smile. She was proud of and thrilled for her friend, playing with this amazing band. It was that word I used in the very first sentence: celebration. It was a homecoming for both Toronto bands, so inherently a celebration, but also a celebration of rock and everything it can be, even today, when it’s no longer the driving force of pop music. The Beaches showed the joy and the future of rock with their relentless energy, choreography, karate kicks and addictive songs. DFA showed the power of rock with their, well, sheer rock power.
The Beaches are so young but so confident and tight as a band; they play like they’ve been together forever. They kept the tempo quick, playing none of their slower songs, which are few but great (I’m looking at you, “Highway 6”). “Money,” “Late Show” and “Gold” were highlights. But I was fantastically floored by their cover of The Ronettes’ 1963 hit “Be My Baby.” It felt like a tip of the cap from a great new “girl group” to one of the first great girl groups. I actually found it kind of touching that they reached back to the past for that particular song. They spread a thick layer of rock and roll grime all over it and incorporated another great surprise within the great surprise that was the song: a dual guitar solo from Leandra and Kylie Miller. Later, the keyboard solo/all-out jam literally made the hair stand up on my arm. Jordan Miller’s vocals were pristine and draped in an aloof coolness, just like on record, and her bass rumbled through the house. Eliza, needless to say considering her later incorporation into DFA, beat the skins off her drums.
I have to be honest, they stole the show, as great as DFA was. For me, anyway. And that’s to take nothing away from the dynamic duo’s performance.
I’d wanted to see DFA for a long time and they definitely didn’t disappoint. I said Jordan’s bass rumbled, but Jesse F. Keeler‘s destroyed. At times I could feel my pants shaking from the sheer power. Seriously. And then came the power combined with the sensitivity of “White is Red,” my favourite song of theirs. It transported me. Like Jordan Miller’s, Sebastien Grainger’s vocals were note-perfect and impassioned. I just don’t understand how he creates that thunder with his drums, while singing at the same time. He also provided some distinctly Canadian prop comedy, insisting that his President’s Choice water bottle had nothing to do with the current American president.
Like I said, this was a celebration of rock, but I think part of the reason it all made me feel so good is because it told me something I really needed to know, because I love rock and roll and I worry about it these days: it’s not going anywhere. Rock and roll is going to be okay.