It’s pretty appropriate that one of the last major Toronto concerts of 2016 happens to be a band that had a really huge 2016, and that’s exactly what happened with The Strumbellas. With their jaunty power-folk they brought a burst of much-needed energy to the Danforth Music Hall on the 23rd along with fellow Canadian indie act The Zolas.
The Zolas also had a big year, racking up three hit singles from their March release Swooner. Those three all made an appearance on stage, from the hook driven “Molotov Girls” to the 90s-via-synth-pop title track to the latest offering- the slinky, appropriately title “Get Dark”. In fact a lot of the show was played in the dark, with very moody lighting.
The Strumbellas exploded onto the stage with a bang, a big blast of light, sound and joy that permeated the venue. It’s the band’s jovial attitude that really seals the deal on their performances, and it’s little wonder that both this show and the previous night’s were sold out.
Though the band’s upbeat melodies and inescapable hooks don’t show it, a secondary listen to their songs reveals that, yeah, they have some pretty depressing themes running through their material. “Wars”, “Shovels & Dirt”, and current radio hit”We Don’t Know” are about some pretty heavy stuff. This was something the band fully acknowledged, and the self-awareness brought some levity to the stage. Keyboardist Dave Ritter also brought a sense of playfulness to the show, and judging by the crowd’s nonstop chanting of this name, is a regular joker.
A few fun twists were peppered in among all the triumphant folk anthems. One was an off-mic performance that had the whole Danforth rapt in silence. Another was a false (or should that be falsetto?) start to the band’s massive hit “Spirits” where lead singer Simon Ward started off feigning nervousness singing the tune before Dave Ritter reassured him. An encore saw the band bringing out the Christmas classic “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, capping off a great show and a great year.