Budweiser Stage

Trish’s Highlights and Top Memories of 2017!

2017 was a year loaded with lots of hard work, unbelievable experiences, and of course, music. I got to meet, and spend time with some amazingly talented people. I got to listen to live music from my favourite artists and bands, new and old, and I had the pleasure of being able to share it with all of you. Below are my five live performance highlights for the year.

Every day I’m aware of how privileged I am to do this job, to bring together my love of music, writing and photography and to live a life where music is everywhere.

Were you at any of these shows? Let me know in the comments.

Hip Hop Set of the Year

Oddisee at Lee’s Palace, Toronto (May 27, 2017)

It’s not very often I take a pass on free music and photo access but in this case, I didn’t even apply to shoot and review the Oddisee show.

I’d been listening to The Iceberg since it’s release in February and was so looking forward to just being a fan. It was a beautifully warm May day and I met up with people I knew in line who were just as excited as I was. It was a sold out show and Lee’s Palace was packed to the back with fans of 24-year-old Amir Mohamed el Khalifa. Opening for Oddisee was Good Compny, his band, and they were brilliant. Showing off their amazing musical skills the band got the crowd ready for Oddisee to take the stage, and take over the crowd.

From the second he took the stage, Oddisee connected with us and he didn’t let go until he walked off the stage. Going into the show, I was pretty comfortable with the songs and thought I knew all the words, but there were people in the audience, singing every single word and he noticed. If this is a new name for you, and you have any interest in rap, hip-hop, jazz or even pop, you need to give his music a listen. I promise you won’t regret it.

Note: This is my only club show set highlight.

Oddisee performance taken from Facebook

Rock and Roll Set of the Year

Cage the Elephant at WayHome, Oro-Medonte (July 28, 2017)

I’ve been a fan of Cage the Elephant since their debut release in 2008 but they’d kinda fallen off my radar.

That completely changed this July when I saw them live for the first time. Wow! This show gets my Rock and Roll set of the year highlight for all the right reasons. It was full of hits, it delivered the new music from Unpeeled, it was loud, it was vibrant and it was the most energetic set of 2017. There was running and jumping and there was confetti, all perfectly timed and amazing.

As a photographer, this set gave me everything I could have hoped for and it also gave me my favourite image of the year. I smile every time I think about this set, that’s a win in my book.

Whole Wide World: Cage The Elephant at WayHome 2017

Emotional Moment Set of the Year

Imagine Dragons at WayHome, Oro-Medonte (July 29, 2017)

Right smack in the middle of WayHome, I had the most emotional moment I’ve ever experienced at a live show.  That encounter was delivered by Day 2 headliner, Imagine Dragons. And I wasn’t alone.

While in the photo pit, amongst 25+ other photographers, Dan Reyolds reached out and touched my heart. It was electric. It was the music and it was the message, “Spread peace, spread love.”. It was real and it was heartfelt.

If there was a masterclass on how to deliver three opening songs for photographers, while not taking away from the crowd, Imagine Dragons could lead this class. They gave us everything including smiles, jumps, close-ups, add in Dan leaving the stage and getting behind us to lean on the barricades, so that he could get as close as possible to the crowd, all the while singing his ass off. It was spectacular showmanship and we ate it up.

As we left the pit, there was chatter between photogs exclaiming, that they gave us everything we could have hoped for. Full disclosure here – I cried twice during the first three songs. This isn’t a normal thing, normally I’m working, I’m in work mode and while I enjoy the music and experience, it doesn’t normally affect me like this. Kudos to Imagine Dragons for connecting on a level I’d never experienced before.

Whatever It Takes: Imagine Dragons at WayHome 2017

Country Set of the Year

Keith Urban at Boots and Hearts, Oro-Medonte (August 11, 2017)

After a super hot steamy early August Friday, the weather took a little turn, and by little, I mean from cloudy threatening skies to a full out tornado warning.

Tens of thousands of people, who’d been waiting all day for headliner Keith Urban to take the stage, were surprised to be told that they had to leave the stage area and return to their tents. After quite a delay, the thunder and lightning passed and everyone was allowed to return to the stage area. Fans ran for the front and Keith opened the set with Long Hot Summer and proceeded to put on a show like nobody’s business. We were not surprised when his name appeared on the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year nominee list, this was easily one of my top five highlights of the year.

Urban played a full set, in spite of the delay, and thanked us all for coming back, like we wouldn’t. During his set, two more showers made their way through the area but he carried on like it was business as usual even giving us a sassy, “Rain ain’t nothing but a thang”.

Keith Urban is an amazing guitar player, fantastic singer and I’d stand in the rain all day for another performance like this one.

Ripcord: Keith Urban at Boots & Hearts 2017

Classic Set of the Year

Midnight Oil at Budweiser Stage, Toronto (August 25, 2017)

In the category of bands, I forgot how much I loved, I give you Midnight Oil.

Following two amazing opening bands (The Living End and Matthew Good), Midnight Oil turned up at the Budweiser Stage on a warm August night, and blew it up!

The energy level was intense, the messages were genuine and the music brought it all together. They played all of their hits and everyone sang along, including me. Peter Garrett moves and sings like a man in his 20’s and the band’s lyrics are just as relevant today as the day they were written. In addition to being my classic set of the year, they’re also my Aussie set of the year.

Midnight Oil, Matthew Good and The Living End at Toronto’s Budweiser Stage

Thank you to the artists, the teams that help bring us together, and thank you to our readers. Thank you all for supporting us and thank you for filling my life with music. I’m looking forward to 2018 and more highlights.

Forever Rebels: Tim Hicks Backstage Interview, Toronto

From the small stage of a downtown Toronto bar to making dreams come true in front of thousands of country music fans on the Budweiser Stage, Tim Hicks has been on a hell of a ride.

Canadian country music fans know Tim Hicks as the singer of top 10 hits, fan anthems, and major tour appearances with some of the genre’s biggest names. But before all of that success, Hicks fronted the house band at Grace O’Malley’s, singing covers of country favourites and drunken rock and roll standards like Pour Some Sugar On Me.

We caught up with Tim Hicks backstage before his Budweiser Stage show with fellow Canadian star Dean Brody to talk about the highlights, family, his live record, CCMA weekend and more.

It was clear that Tim was excited for the amphitheatre show. Even if he hadn’t told us about the excitement specifically (he did), it was plastered all over his face. He called it a bucket list event, a highlight that he’ll not only look back on as a big moment, but that he could appreciate as it was happening.

Tim Hicks - Budweiser Stage 2017

That feeling of excitement flows over into everything that is happening in Tim Hicks’ career. He’s still very happy to be writing, recording and performing his music. But as much as he enjoys making a living doing what he loves, he fully admits that it isn’t always easy. “It doesn’t come with a manual”, he told us when we talked about the process of creating music, being on the road and juggling that with his responsibilities as a husband and a father. He told us that when he’s home he makes a conscious effort to put his phone away and just be dad. Whether that means colouring, crafts, puzzles or playing outside, that time is important to him and his young family.

While there may not be a manual, there has been help along the way. In 2014, at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto we talked to Tim and he told us that Dierks Bentley had become an amazing resource of advice and information as they prepared for their tour dates together. And as the years add up in his own career, Hicks feels like he’s ready to start sharing his insights and advice to the next wave of Canadian artists coming through the pipeline.

Note: As we talked on a balcony backstage, a group of Tim Hicks fans lined up for their meet and greet with him below us. When they saw him, they called his name, waving and trying to get his attention. We stopped for a second as he turned and smiled and waved at them. And when he turned back around he looked at us with a look of awe and told us that he was a little speechless. It was real and endearing and one of the small moments that still hasn’t gotten old for the homegrown star.

Tim Hicks - Budweiser Stage 2017

While we had Tim we asked him about his live record, Tim Hicks Live, that dropped in May. Hicks told is that the 6 song release was a happy accident. He had been recording his shows live from the board and listening back to them to see where things could get tighter, better, and more exciting at the next stop – and then it happened. When Tim listened back to the Sudbury show he loved it. The sound was strong, his vocals were on point, and it got the wheels turning. After sharing it with his label, the tracks were sent to Nashville for a little cleanup and mastering, and from there all that was left as the release. Hicks told us that he’s especially proud of the fact that his vocals weren’t tuned or touched in the production of the record. And he also told us that he’d love to see more Canadian country artists follow his lead with their own live releases. He didn’t go so far as to challenge anyone by name, but as a fan himself, we’re sure there are some live releases he’d love to hear.

We also talked to Tim about the upcoming CCMA awards and weekend in Saskatoon. He told us what so many other artists have, that he’s looking forward to seeing all of the industry friends that he so rarely gets to hangout with. Tour stops like the Toronto show offer quick chances to say hi to local radio hosts and fellow artists, but Canadian Country Music Week will offer the chance for some real catch up time, and maybe a drink or two. Tim is also up for two awards on Sunday, September 10 – Male Artist and Interactive Artist of the Year – and taking home either of those trophies would most certainly be another highlight to add to Tim Hicks’ growing list.

On stage in Toronto, Tim Hicks and his band let it all hang out. With fire shooting into the sky, guitars ringing, and the fans singing along, it was a special night for the folks in the back row all the way to the man standing at the microphone. And don’t for a second think that he’ll forget it.

Tim Hicks - Budweiser Stage 2017 Tim Hicks - Budweiser Stage 2017 Tim Hicks - Budweiser Stage 2017

Midnight Oil, Matthew Good and The Living End at Toronto’s Budweiser Stage

On a beautiful Friday summer night, Toronto showed up big time for another 2017 performance by Midnight Oil. Having just performed in May of this year it was a treat that Midnight Oil returned to play for us so soon. The band brought along fellow Aussie band The Living End to get things started and Canadian Matthew Good played the middle slot of the bill. It was an action packed, energy laden night with a few welcome political messages thrown in for good measure.

The Living End are an Australian punk rock/rockabilly band who’ve been playing shows together since 1994. Friday night’s line up, which included lead singer Chris Cheney on vocals and guitar, Andy Strachan on drums and Scott Owen on double bass have been bandmates since 2002.
The Living End - Budweiser Stage 2017They come with 27 Australian Recording Industry Association Music Awards nominations and they’ve won 5 awards including Highest Selling Single, Breakthrough Artist – Album and Best Group, and for Best Rock Album, twice. Let that sink in. They put on a fun, energetic, tight set and they told us that it was a dream come true, touring with Midnight Oil.

They’ve got a brand new album out called Shift and if punk/rockabilly is your thing, we highly recommend you give this Aussie band a listen, we promise you won’t regret it.

After The Living Dead finished up their set, we got a welcome injection of one of our favourite Canadian acts, Matthew Good. Matt unceremoniously made his way to the stage, opening up his set with Giant and he had the crowd from the first note. He was charming, engaged and full of energy. He smiled and joked between songs about sunglasses and Spinal Tap thumbs down references. It was Matt Good at his absolute best and when he started Apparitions, we weren’t the only fans with tears in our eyes, and we were all happy to sing along at the end. I’m misting up just thinking about it now. Musical magic!

Amazing musicianship all around. With 12 songs in his set, I wish he could have played a little longer.
Matt Good - Budweiser Stage 2017

Matt Good Setlist Budweiser Stage, Toronto

♩ Giant
♩ Hello Time Bomb
♩ Born Losers
♩ Decades*
♩ Strange Days
♩ Let’s Get It On
♩ The Future is X-Rated
♩ Load Me Up
♩ I’m a Window
♩ Apparitions
♩ Weapon
♩ Everything is Automatic

*new single

Matt is no slouch in the award-winning department either, Matt has won 4 Juno Awards, and Matthew has a brand new single out, Decades.

Midnight Oil
 arrived and the entire venue blew up! Fans had been waiting all night for this moment and they were richly rewarded. Song after song, hit after hit, an unwavering energy from beginning to end. They were on fire!
Midnight Oil - Budweiser Stage 2017With the band spread from one side of the stage to the other, Peter Garrett moved in his own enigmatic way, owning the entire stage. The fans sang along and danced with abandon, it was truly magical to see. There were political undertones which included Trump references and a “Dump Trump” tee and statements that Trump is an “ignorant hick” and an “evil piece of shit”. There were references to the treatment of aboriginal peoples of all nations but especially of Australia and Canada, before launching into Beds Are Burning. And last but not least, there was a Green Peace tee, a shout out about the great work that organization is doing and a plea to everyone to care about the world we live in.

There was an amazing drum solo at the outset of the encore with band intros all around and at the very end Peter left us with a “[we] hope we see you sooner than last time”. We hope so too guys!

What do you need to know? In case you didn’t already know, Midnight Oil has a new box set out, both cd and vinyl. Additionally, you can get them with some unique packaging and rare items. Check out the website for all of the details. Next, you need to know that the tour continues with US, New Zealand and Australian dates still to come on The Great Circle 2017 World Tour. Check out the tour schedule and if you haven’t already, grab your tickets. 

And just in case you were wondering, Midnight Oil have won a multitude of  Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Awards over the years including Best Group, Best Single, Best Song, Best Cover Art, Outstanding Achievement Award and more!
Midnight Oil Great Circle 2017 World Tour

Midnight Oil Setlist Budweiser Stage, Toronto

  Read About It
  Golden Age
  No Time for Games
  Put Down That Weapon
  Stars of Warburton
  Can’t See Reason
  My Country
  When the Generals Talk
  Tin Legs and Tin Mines
  US Forces
  Now or Never Land
  Only the Strong
  River Runs Red
  The Dead Heart
  Beds Are Burning
  Blue Sky Mine

  Power and the Passion (Extended drum solo, band intros)
  Forgotten Years
  Best of Both Worlds

More Photos of The Living End at The Budweiser Stage – Toronto

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More Photos of Matthew Good at The Budweiser Stage – Toronto
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More Photos of Midnight Oil at The Budweiser Stage – Toronto
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Dean Brody, Tim Hicks, Carly Pearce and Special Guests Take Over Toronto

On a summer Thursday night down by the lake, Toronto embraced Canadian country music at the biggest homegrown show in our memory. Dean Brody & Tim Hicks put their Canadian names on the tickets, with U.S. rising star Carly Pearce as their opener, and special guests promised – and everyone, from the start to the finish – delivered a night that thousands of fans are glad they were a part of.

Before the show on the big stage got started, Leah Daniels hit the River Bar for a pre-show set as the gates opened. We talked to Leah for a minute and she told us that there are some exciting things coming soon. So stay tuned for more news from the Canadian country singer.

The Budweiser Stage show started with Kentucky native, former Dollywood performer, and Top 20 charting, Carly Pearce. The Big Machine artist, preparing to drop her debut full length album this fall (October 13, 2017) made her first Canadian performance count, wowing the crowd from start to finish.

With songs including her single, (and the title track to her upcoming album) Every Little Thing, and songs that we’ll hear on the new record including, Careless, Doin’ It Right, and If My Name Was Whiskey, Pearce showed that she’s ready for that release.

The tracks offered an opportunity for Carly to showcase her voice, and it’s impressive. The notes, inflection, and emotion that she’s able to share through the words in her songs are strong, and those qualities are exactly why there’s hype from outlets like Rolling Stone for her young career.

Be ready to hear a lot more about Carly Pearce here and everywhere.

Carly Pearce - Budweiser Stage 2017

After Carly Pearce finished her Canadian debut, the true north country show started with Tim Hicks and his band hitting the Budweiser Stage… hard. The moment Hicks and the boys hit the stage, it got loud. The Toronto country fans love this dude, accepting him as one of their own over the last few years as he’s put out hit after hit.

Hicks made a point of telling everyone in the crowd how special this show was to him. Making the journey in his career from fronting the house band at Grace O’Malley’s to playing the amphitheatre by the lake is big for him, as it would be for anybody.

Tim Hicks - Budweiser Stage 2017

Note: Many thanks to Tim for hanging out with us for a little chat and catch up session before the show. It’s always a good time.

Hicks also made an announcement at the end of the set, just before playing his last song, that the track, Forever Rebels, will be released as his next radio single. And, having listened to the track, and having seen the reaction of the fans to it, we’re pretty comfortable telling you that we think Tim Hicks has another Canadian Top 10 on his hands.

We should also tell you this… Tim Hicks had the second loudest singalong we’ve ever heard at the Budweiser Stage. When Stronger Beer was being belted out by thousands of voices we could feel it just as much as we could hear it. It was special. It truly was. And the only time we’ve heard it louder was when Florida Georgia Line stripped it down to perform H.O.L.Y in 2016.

Even though it’s only a 15 minute drive, Tim Hicks has come a long way from playing covers in downtown Toronto. And every stop along the way has been a hell raisin’ good time.

Tim Hicks Setlist Budweiser Stage, Toronto

🍻 Shake These Walls
🍻 Burn
🍻 Hell Raisin’ Good Time
🍻 Slide Over
🍻 She Don’t Drink Whiskey
🍻 I Got A Feelin’
🍻 Stompin’ Ground
🍻 Get By
🍻 Stronger Beer
🍻 Forever Rebels

Dean Brody headlined the Thursday night concert in every sense of the word. With a boatload of energy, and more special guests than we could have predicted, the B.C. native took over the Toronto stage and showed everyone what he’s got.

It was immediately clear, from the moment he walked on stage and started playing Bush Party with the band, that the crowd was in love with him. They were loud, attentive, out of their seats, singing and dancing at every opportunity. And that was before the surprises started popping out onto the stage.

Note: Dean told the crowd that he’s a Toronto resident now, so if you see him walking around reenacting the Mountain Man video, say hi.

Dean Brody - Budweiser Stage 2017

Six songs into the show the first special guest came out to play – and Toronto got loud for Dallas Smith as he partnered with Brody on Undone, and then borrowed the band to play Somebody Somewhere. Then, just a new moments later, Madeline Merlo (fresh off the bandshell stage at the Canadian National Exhibition) came out to sing Lindi Ortega’s part on Bounty. Next, after Dean pulled on our heartstrings with acoustic versions of Time and Brothers, his duet partner, Shevy Price, came out to hammer home a high energy performance of Beautiful Freakshow.

And just when we thought that had to be it, Alan Doyle, a repeat partner in Dean Brody’s career, came out on stage to collaborate on both Soggy Bottom Summer and It’s Friday, before borrowing the Brodeo for Great Big Sea’s classic, Ordinary Day.

Dean Brody - Budweiser Stage 2017

It was highlight after highlight. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the special guests were the only high spots. Dean Brody worked the stage, commanded the crowd, danced, smiled, and rolled through his biggest hits for the Toronto crowd. He headlined the hell out of that concert, proving that he was more than ready for that big city spotlight on the Budweiser Stage.

Dean Brody is a stud and a homegrown star. And he showed that Canadian talent can not only compete, but can put thousands of butts in seats, get them back out of those seats to sing and dance, and headline shows for country music fans.

We’re glad we were there to see it. And we can’t wait to see Dean, and a whole crop of Canadian artists follow in those footsteps.

Dean Brody and Special Guests Setlist, Toronto

🍻 Bush Party
🍻 Dirt Road Scholar
🍻 Upside Down
🍻 People Know You By Your First Name
🍻 Roll That Barrel Out
🍻 Monterey
🍻 Undone (with Dallas Smith)
🍻 Somebody Somewhere (Dallas Smith)
🍻 Love Would Be Enough
🍻 Bounty (with Madeline Merlo)
🍻 Time
🍻 Brothers
🍻 Beautiful Freakshow (with Shevy Price)
🍻 Soggy Bottom Summer (with Alan Doyle)
🍻 It’s Friday (with Alan Doyle)
🍻 Ordinary Day (Alan Doyle)
🍻 Canadian Girls
🍻 Mountain Man
🍻 Bring Down The House

More Photos of Dean Brody at Budweiser Stage, Toronto

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More Photos of Carly Pearce at Budweiser Stage, Toronto

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Side Effects: Dallas Smith Backstage Interview, Toronto

Before he surprised the crowd at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto as a special guest of Dean Brody, Dallas Smith hung out with us to talk about his upcoming tour, what it feels like to go #1, and more.

The first time we saw Dallas Smith playing live country music was at Boots & Hearts in 2012. It was year one of the festival, Smith was still new to the country genre, and he played in the middle of the sunny afternoon to country music fans who sang along to covers and listened to him play songs from his first album, Jumped Right In. We asked him about that day, and the journey since then to playing bigger stages for bigger crowds.

Dallas remembers the afternoon show, and then jumped ahead to talk about the 2014 Thursday night kick off party at the same festival. Smith headlined that night, to a monster crowd on the front porch stage, and he remembers that feeling. We were there, and we remember that night too. He was on fire, running all over the stage and showing the country music fans that he belonged on the list of rising stars in the genre. He jumped again to put a highlight on his 2015 visit to Boots & Hearts when he played the lead in to Eric Church on the Saturday night main stage. We could see in his face that he remembers that night with a special feeling. He told us that he took a bunch of video of the crowd because it was such a significant moment in his live performance career.

Dallas Smith Boots and Hearts 2015

Staying on the live show topic, we talked about Dallas Smith’s recently announced, Side Effects Tour that will see him play 27 dates between October 12 and November 18. He told us that the tour has been in the works for months, and that it was exciting to be able to make the announcement this week. It’s also exciting, he said, to be hitting the road with the likes of The Cadillac Three, Lauren Alaina, Michael Ray, and for one night, the James Barker Band. Here’s our recommendation, if the Side Effects Tour is coming to a city anywhere near you, get tickets and be there.

A common thread throughout our chat were the feelings that have come at different moments in Dallas Smith’s career. With Sky Stays This Blue recently becoming his fourth #1 single, we asked about the feelings that have some with those milestones. Dallas told us that they all felt special of course, but the first one, Wastin’ Gas was something he’d never felt before. And when it stayed at the top for a second week, that was truly a feeling to remember. We asked who got the first call after he found out about his number one status, and while he couldn’t remember exactly, he’s sure it was either his dad or his wife… and both of those options sound good to us.

Dallas Smith also told us there’s one feeling that never changes and never goes away; the feeling that comes when thousands of people in the crowd take over and sing his songs back to him. We’ve seen and heard it, and we told him that we watch for the reactions from artists when it happens, and he confirmed for us that it’s all legit. The smiles and expressions he, and other singers, give when a choir of country fans starts singing are 100% real, and it never gets old.

Dallas Smith CNE 2015

Before our time was up, we asked Smith about the music video for Sky Stays This Blue and how special it was to be able to include his daughter, Vayda. Dallas told us that he’d had the idea to include her in a video to capture her at a young age and create a memory that they can both hold onto in the future. He said that the song fit perfectly with that idea, and that with a scaled down version of director Stephano Barberis’ original idea, a small crew was able to capture the feeling and vibe that Smith had hoped for from the very beginning.

During Dean Brody’s set on Thursday night at the Budweiser Stage, Dallas Smith was introduced to a thunderous round of cheers and applause. The crowd, already pumped up from Carly Pearce, Tim Hicks, and the start of Dean Brody’s set went wild when the B.C. native came out in a Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays jersey. And when he teamed up with Dean for a duet of Brody’s 2009 single, Undone, and then borrowed the band to play Somebody Somewhere, it stayed loud. Really loud.

Smith was ready for that moment, excited, he told us it was the first time he’d be coming out as a surprise guest. We saw it all, and we can tell you this, it worked, he just jumped right in.

You Look Good World Tour: Lady Antebellum, Kelsea Ballerini & Brett Young in Toronto

On a Summer Thursday night at the Budweiser Stage, Lady Antebellum made their triumphant return to Toronto, nearly 2 years exactly from their last trip on the Wheels Up Tour.

In 2015 we saw the trio come to town with Sam Hunt and Hunter Hayes. In 2017 they brought Kelsea Ballerini and Brett Young on the You Look Good World Tour. Both were great choices, and all three acts had the Toronto crowd singing, dancing, and owning the night.

Related: Lady Antebellum and the Wheels Up Tour Land in Toronto

If you haven’t had the chance to see Lady A on stage. Find one and do it. As soon as you can.

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First on the Budweiser Stage, sitting on his first #1 hit, and coming all the way from still underrated country landscape of California, was the incredibly talented and handsome Brett Young. Seriously, this dude has the entire package – his voice is rich and textured live, giving life to the songs that we’ve heard on the radio and his self-titled debut album.

Young understood his job on the You Look Good World Tour, he was great with the crowd, engaging and acting humble and kind. He worked the stage, and did all that he could with his four song set. Having listened to the album on more than one occasion, we would have been happy to hear twice as many songs… and we have the feeling that the next time we see Brett Young live on stage in Toronto, he’ll have a whole lot more time to add to Close Enough, You Ain’t Here To Kiss Me, In Case You Didn’t Know, and Sleep Without You.

Get ready for more from this tall California country singer, he’s here to stay.

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The middle slot in the night’s show belonged to another up and coming country star with hits to share. Kelsea Ballerini hit #1 with her first three singles at country radio, showing that she’s a force to be reckoned with. And on Thursday night, the Tennessee native showed Toronto what she’s working with in her first ever Canadian set.

Note: We’ve seen Ballerini live in Canada before, catching her on the 2016 Canadian Country Music Association green carpet and stage where she performed Peter Pan.

CCMA Awards 2016 Kelsea Ballerini Green Carpet

Ballerini brought the songs that her fans already know and love to the stage, and sprinkled in brand new tracks that we haven’t heard yet, that she says will be on her second album, scheduled to come out before the end of 2017.

Tracks like Dibs, Love Me Like You Mean It, and Yeah Boy had lips moving and hips shaking. And it was especially awesome to see all of the dudes singing along to the 23 year old hit maker’s songs. And those new songs, including Unapologetically and I Hate Love Songs, they’re good. You’re going to like them.

Kelsea also jammed her brand new single (that has a brand new video, click here), Legends and we’re willing to bet that it won’t be long before it finds a spot near the top of the charts too.

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Last, loudest, and ready to party, Lady Antebellum took the stage to headline their You Look Good World Tour’s Toronto landing!

Having seen Hillary, Charles, and Dave on this stage before, we felt like we knew what we were in for. But, when you’re dealing with artists as talented as these three (and their amazing seven-piece band, including horns), there are still moments that WOW you, and make you fall in love with live music all over again.

American Honey, live in Toronto!

Note: Let’s stick with the talent for a second… there is no overstating just how good these three performers are. Fans know the solo work of Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley, who both killed it with albums in 2016, but don’t sleep on Dave Haywood. Playing guitar, mando, piano, singing on every track, he’s top notch talent too.

Related: The Driver: Charles Kelley Album Review

On Thursday night the Toronto fans got to hear the hits in a 19 song set list that included covers of Tim McGraw, Shania Twain, and Beyonce, #1 singles I Run To You, Need You Now, American Honey, Our Kind Of Love, Just A Kiss, We Owned The Night, and fan favourites that had everyone standing, dancing, singing, and loving every minute of the show.

With songs from their latest release, Heart Break, joining the previous hits, the Lady Antebellum set list has become even more robust, and added the newness and freshness that keeps country fans coming back to see them on every tour, with enthusiasm and love.

As always, Lady A played with the crowd perfectly, leading sing alongs, showing love and appreciation for the support they’ve received over the last 10+ years, and playing their hearts out.

Without fear of talking out of turn, we feel confident in telling you that the amphitheatre crowd would have been glad to hear another 10 songs in the set, no matter how much later that would have taken us into Thursday night.

Like we said in the open, if you haven’t seen Lady Antebellum live, do it. Find a way, find a show, and be there to experience it all, live and full of love.

Lady Antebellum, You Look Good World Tour Set List

Our Kind Of Love
This City
Dancin’ Away With My Heart
Heart Break
Compass / We Owned The Night
American Honey
I Run To You
Good Time To Be Alive
Thy Will / Hello World
You’re Still The One (S. Twain)
Just A Kiss
You Look Good
Lookin’ For A Good Time
Something Like That (T. McGraw) w/ Brett young
Crazy In Love (Beyonce) w/ Kelsea Ballerini
Love Don’t Live Here Anymore
In The Air Tonight / Bartender
Need You Now

Also, Shania was in the house… how freaking cool is that?!

Still thinking @ShaniaTwain stopping by the #youlookgoodworldtour last night was all a dream… 💞 -hills

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Who wants to go Downtown with @lady antebellum?! #toronto #countrymusic #livemusic #youlookgoodworldtour

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Celebrating Summer: Arkells, July Talk & Friends Rock Toronto!

Summer days and nights are better with live music. And Saturday night in Toronto, there was live music flowing and 17,000 happy listeners soaking it in as The Arkells and July Talk headlined one of the first outdoor big rock and roll shows of summer 2017.

With the sun still shining down, thousands of music fans took their seats and staked out spots on the lawn as Vancouver’s Said The Whale kicked things off with their live sounds flowing through the speakers.

The vibe on the lawn was familiar and almost festival-esque. With blankets laid out, drinks poured and enjoyed, some dancing, some singing, some laying down and tanning – but all present and connected and enjoying the day. And the biggest pop, the one that came when people danced and sang along to I Love You, was a great introduction to what we’d all experience as the night grew darker and later.

Next on the bill, the only American act of the evening, Mondo Cozmo, hit the stage to keep the party going and get people into the groove for July Talk and The Arkells. And while the band played and the people swayed, the sun continued to beat down on us on the lawn, and we loved it. Then, in a moment that took many of back to simpler days, the band whipped out a cover of The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony that had thousands of people singing along and feeling fine.

After Mondo Cozmo wrapped their set, and the stage was changed over, July Talk came out to a huge pop from the Toronto crowd that was ready, willing, and able to kick their Saturday night into full gear.

Fronted effectively and affectingly by Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis, the hometown band took easy control of the crowd, bringing them along for the ride through tracks like Picturing Love, Summer Dress, Strange Habit, Guns + Ammunition, Paper Girl, and Jesus Said So.

Note: It’s worth mentioning that before the set started, Leah took a moment to recognize the Indigenous Peoples that once lived in the area that Torontonians now call home. And during the set, she wished everyone assembled a happy Pride, as Toronto and the world celebrated love in all its many forms.

One of the July Talk set highlights came when they celebrated the birthday of their friend, and show sound engineer Karen. And to make it even more special, they called our Matt Mays to jam with them on Karen’s favourite song, Motörhead’s Ace Of Spades.

The set continued with singing and dancing to songs including Beck+ Call, Push + Pull, and The Garden… and then a huge round of applause for the band, their front persons, and the love they showed 17,000 people in Toronto.

This is a band that you need to see live if you love live music. The energy drips off of the stage and blasts through the speakers. And if you missed this show, don’t fret – July Talk will be taking over Massey Hall for 2 nights, December 21 and 22, 2017. Click here to learn more. 

Next, last, finally, The Arkells hit the stage hard, coming strong out of the gate, and putting on the show that everyone, in the pits, the seats, and on the lawn, had been waiting for.

From Private School to start the set, to a raucous rendition of Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark to close the encore – Max, Mike, Tim, Nick, Anthony, The Northern Soul Horns, and The Arkettes were on fire, and bringing the heat.

The pride of Hamilton, ON played a 19 song set, and every single one was a sing along. This was a party, a campfire, a choir rehearsal, and a concert all rolled into one. And we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

From goosebump inducing acoustic sing alongs during And Then Some, to Max’s stage diving and singing combo during A Little Rain, this was a show full of moments that fans can hold onto. Memories being made, instantly.

From first hand experience I can tell you that the lawn was rocking. There was swaying, singing, dancing, drinking, and more singing. At the top of 17,000 lungs, Toronto was heard at the Budweiser Stage on Saturday night.

Hot Take: I believe that Max Kerman is the best front man of any mainstream touring Canadian rock and roll band. His energy, commitment, engagement and talent all come together to guide live Arkells shows from start to finish. Don’t agree? Leave a comment to tell me who you think is #1.

I’m fortunate to be able to say this is the second Arkells set I’ve seen in the last 10 months (yay for WayHome 2016), and if I’m lucky, I’ll be telling you about another show in the not too distant future.

Do yourself a favour and get to a show soon. Anywhere, at any venue, in any city, with any crowd. The band will kill it, the vibe will be top notch, and you’ll leave satisfied and wanting more at the same time.

Trust me.

Arkells Setlist, June 24, 2017 – Toronto

Private School
Michigan Left
Never Thought This Would Happen
Come To Light
Oh, The Boss Is Coming!
Pullin Punches
Hit The Road Jack/ Great Balls Of Fire/ Sir Duke (medley)
Drake’s Dad
And Then Some
Book Club
Leather Jacket
Dirty Blonde
Whistle Blower
A Little Rain (A Song for Pete)
Cynical Bastards
Knocking At The Door
My Heart’s Always Yours
Dancin In The Dark – w/ July Talk, Mondo Cozmo, Said The Whale


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