Dani Strong and her band of merry men opened the show, having as much fun as they do every time we see them.
Strong’s voice was, well, strong as she belted out her songs on stage, adding quips, stories, and laughter to her set as she drew the crowd in and made a whole out of all of the individuals in the room. It’s what she does, it’s sweet, and we like it.
And as she wooed the audience, Dani played through her set, including excellent versions of Fallout, Mountains, Mrs. Jones, Wild One and more. We could see people singing along, which is awesome to see for an indie artist, and it certainly seemed to us that the crowd was having just as much fun as the crew on the Rivoli stage.
In the singing along department, we were loudest for two songs… 1) Dani’s most recent release to country radio, What You Need. 2) Her cover of Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks’ classic, Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.
As Dani sang out some big notes on Child Of Faith we couldn’t help but think that we’d love to hear her sing The Black Crowes’ She Talks To Angels. It could be a whole lot of good.
After Dani and the band finished their set, Johnson Crook got ready to take the stage and continue the evening’s entertainment.
Johnson Crook hadn’t played a bar show in Toronto in months. In that time their debut full-length album, The Album, was released, two music videos (Canada To Heartbreak, Minnedosa) were released, and Shadows racked up nearly 100,000 streams on Spotify.
On Friday night, the boys hit the stage in a good mood. The crowd was ready for the show. And all signs pointed to a good time.
And from the moment they opened the gig with Canada To Heartbreak, until the final notes of The Doobie Brothers’ Listen To The Music as the end of the night, things were flowing free and easy in all of the best ways. It may have been a while since the boys played Toronto, but they made it look and feel like riding a four-man bicycle.
Note: Having seen Johnson Crook’s set more than a few times, and knowing their music, we’re pretty sure they’d be a great lead in to budding superstars, Midland at a club show full of country fans.
The band rolled through a set that included music from The Album, as well as new tunes that they’ve been writing and working on. And then there was one song, that Noel told the crowd just missed the cut for the record, and was written when he found out he was going to be a dad for the first time… Your Love is a lovely track, one that we’d love to hear again, and could end up being one of those ‘for the fans’ moments at shows for years to come.
As the set moved along, Johnson Crook reminded us once again that we absolutely love the harmonies that Noel, Nathan, Trevor, and Jared produce when they sing together. The musicianship supports the voices, the songs fit their style and strengths, and they continue to grow. Favourites like Hardwired, Feel Some Love, and Minnedosa worked well with new songs like No Excuse For Whiskey, High Road, and Summers In Gold. And when the Crook brothers (Nathan and Trevor) took the lead on a cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Mary Jane’s Last Dance, everyone grooved along with a little extra something in tribute to the lost legend.
Before the set ended, Dani Strong joined Johnson Crook on stage for Mr. Nobody (where she admirably took care of Tom Cochrane’s part on the song), Minnedosa, and Listen To The Music. It was a wonderful end to the set, and an example of the camaraderie that we love to see in the music industry.
This was a good Friday night in Toronto. The music, people, and love in the room were everything we hoped they would be. And we can’t wait for the next time we can say the same thing again.
Photos of Johnson Crook, The Rivoli – Toronto
Photos of Dani Strong, the Rivoli – Toronto