Review: The Beaches at The Opera House in Toronto, May 11, 2018

The Beaches at The Opera House in Toronto

There are no words. That’s about the laziest thing a writer can say about anything. And yet it was the first phrase that came to mind about The Beaches’ homecoming show in Toronto Friday night, rounding out a headlining tour across Canada. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to use a fourth-grade poetry trick and use that hacky phrase as my guide to actually say some words.

T is for Toronto: It’s always fun to see Toronto bands celebrate at home. I remember seeing Metric in awe of the massive crowd at the Molson Amphitheatre, probably around 2009. And there’s even these same Beaches with fellow Torontonians Death From Above back in December, when they finished up that tour at home. And the ladies seemed super pumped and grateful to play in front of a hometown crowd. Before they hit the stage, a roadie set up an illuminated sign in front of the drum kit that read, “HOME SWEET HOME,” to the cheers of the crowd.

H is for Headliners: They proved they have what it takes to lead a tour. They dominated that stage.

E is for Energy: My god they have energy. I saw that in December when they played for about 45 minutes. But they kept it up for about 75 minutes or so this time. Whenever lead guitarist Kylie Miller wasn’t shredding, she was dancing. And sometimes when she was riffing away. Same for guitarist/keyboardist Leandra Earl. Not to mention the leg kicks and choreography.

R is for Rock: At this point it goes without saying that The Beaches rock. But they also know their rock. Kylie plays her Telecaster with a swoop and a sneer, like Keith Richards. And as they did in December, they dug back to cover the 1963 Ronettes hit “Be My Baby.” They ooze rock and roll swagger.

E is for Eliza: That would be Eliza Enman-McDaniel. She just sits behind that drum kit and beats it into the ground, all business, hyper-focused on the beats. Both on record and live she shines the most on “Turn Me On,” where she masterfully switches up the rhythm.

A is for Avril Lavigne: Before this show I don’t think I’d ever noticed a crowd care all that much about the music that was played before a show. I can’t say that anymore. Clearly The Beaches are master curators for this unsung aspect of concert-going. They know their audience. When Avril Lavigne’s 2002 hit “Complicated,” hit the speakers before their set, a small section of the crowd started singing along. Then, before the first verse was done it seemed most of the crowd was joyously singing along. It was actually a beautiful communal moment. And they followed that up with a singalong of another Lavigne classic, “Sk8er Boi.”

R is for Relationships: They clearly had family and friends in the crowd, which was cool. You’d see them point to someone in the crowd, and Leandra pointed out her parents in the balcony. Singer/bassist Jordan Miller even broke character (more on that later) once or twice to smile at people in the crowd.

E is for Electricity: There are moments or songs I sometimes anticipate before a show, hoping they’ll be electric. For me, it was the Late Show album’s one slow, dramatic track, “Highway 6,” which they didn’t play in December. Specifically, the soaring, wailing vocals toward the end. And Jordan didn’t disappoint. Chills. Electricity.

N is for New: There’s something fresh and new about the energy that The Beaches bring to their live shows and I think it comes from their youth and femininity. I don’t like to dwell on those things when I talk about The Beaches, because it’s about the music, but it really is about those things, too. There are so many men in rock that the masculine energy can get a bit played. Obviously they’re not the first all-girl rock band. You’ve got your Runaways and your Bangles and your Go-Gos and your Elasticas and your Sleater-Kinneys. But I think what’s new about The Beaches is that they combine all of those older bands into one. They have the punk edge of the Runaways, the poppiness of the Bangles and Go-Gos, some vocal and melodic similarities to Elastica and some of that Sleater-Kinney stage presence, leg kicks and all.

O is for Openers: My eyes were totally opened to the two opening acts: first Goodbye Honolulu, then Taylor Knox. Goodbye Honolulu was everything that was good about grungy mid-90s rock, kind of Weezer-esque at times – but I also felt a bit of an early Beach Boys vibe at times. And they were fucking LOUD. Like, chest-rumblingly loud. And they had a quirky stage presence. Knox was quintessential power trio pop, with sweet harmonies and slick guitar solos that reminded me a bit of Joel Plaskett’s 90s band, Thrush Hermit. And how could I not mention Knox’s beautiful, shiny, red Fender Jaguar. I want it.

W is for Who Cares?: Like I said in the December review, I worry sometimes about the state of rock and roll. But with rock and roll in the capable hands of The Beaches, “Who cares? The Beaches” is the answer to all my rock and roll worries. “Rock and roll is overpopulated by middle-aged (and older) dudes.” Who cares? The Beaches. “Is AC/DC really AC/DC with Axel Rose on the mike?” Who cares? The Beaches. “Younger generations don’t care about rock and roll anymore.” Who cares? The Beaches. The Beaches will lead the way.

O is for Opening: As opposed to the show’s openers, here I’m talking about the band’s cool opening theatrics. It started with Eliza laying down a steady beat, then the others walking on stage, picking up their instruments and taking turns strutting to the front of the stage, fashion-show style.

R is for Routine: I don’t love the word “routine,” but I’m trying to work with a silly acrostic poem structure here. Cut me some slack. It’s the closest I could get to “act” or “character.” Jordan plays a super cool character on stage. It’s like she’s this slinky, dangerously seductive predator – like a venomous viper or something. She gracefully sashays, her eyes slightly looking up from a downward-tilted head, as though stalking her rock and roll prey.

D is for Dumbasses: For most of the show I was thinking about how cool the crowd was. Nobody pushing anybody, nobody walking in front of anybody, nobody throwing stuff, nobody moshing. Until there was moshing near the end of the set, during the uproarious “Late Show.” There were four dudes moshing right behind me, occasionally bumping into me – until they crashed into me so hard I lurched forward and my glasses slipped off my sweaty nose. And they crashed into the guy next to me, too, whose phone hit the ground. I crouched to the floor and started feeling around for my glasses, came across the guy’s phone battery and handed it to him, then, panicky, finally found my glasses intact but a little smudged. I wouldn’t have been able to drive home without them. Look, I definitely don’t have a problem with moshing. But there has to be a communal agreement to do it. It can’t be just four guys bumping into non-moshers. Fortunately, they stopped after they saw the trouble they caused and we could go back to enjoying the show.

S is for Sweat: The Beaches love their sweat. And I agree, there’s nothing like a good rock and roll sweat. I’ve seen them on social media talking about their sweaty shows, and sure enough they talked about the awesome sweat we all shared during the show – and Leandra and Jordan wiped a little of theirs on each other. We all went home into the slightly chilly night, sweaty and thoroughly rocked.

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