Zeus Burst Expectations at The Phoenix

Zeus @ Phoenix, 09-06-12

Date of show: June 9, 2012

Written by: Chiara DiAngelo

Toronto-based Zeus made a triumphant homecoming at The Phoenix to promote their latest release, Busting Visions. I first saw the band at CMW in 2010 as part of the Bonfire Revue Ball with Jason Collett and Bahamas and as much as they blew me away then, the tightness and showmanship of their set has just increased exponentially since. Like the Greek God, Zeus’ live show truly reaches epic proportions, and has rightfully earned them the name as one of the top live bands in the country right now.

Starting with single “How Does It Feel?”, their lengthy set featured a good mix of old and new songs. One of the best parts of their live show is the fact that Carlin Nicholson, Mike O’Brien, and Neil Quin share frontman duties equally, constantly switching from guitar, bass, organ and lead vocals. It’s one thing to have a talent on one instrument, but the fact that all three are that proficient at so many – and sing – is just mind boggling when you really think about it. Of course drummer Rob Drake was also solid from start to finish.

A real treat of their set, Quin played “Kindergarten” acoustic, which is a rarity. They even brought up an additional Taylor Knox (The Golden Dogs) on guitar, making it that much more special. Further highlights included “River By The Garden,” “Marching Through Your Head,” and the slow burning “Hello Tender Love.” True stars, they even had female backup singers come out for a few of their last songs. Their set ended with massive guitar flourishes on barn burner “The Renegade,” and finally their latest single, “Are You Gonna Waste My Time?” – which proved that listening to Zeus is pretty much the best possible use of your time.

Possibly as excited as the crowd was to be playing in their hometown, the band came out for a seemingly never-ending four-song encore (not that anyone was complaining), which included the gorgeous acoustic “The Darkness,” as well as “At The Risk of Repeating” and a cover of Genesis’ “That’s All.” They had the crowd’s attention the whole way through and O’Brien likely made many a fan’s day when he came and high-fived those in the front row.

Continually lauded as the next Arts & Crafts band to break into the mainstream, judging from the crowd at the front, if they haven’t already, Zeus are on the verge of making that well-deserved leap.

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Two Hours Traffic

From Charlottetown, PEI, Two Hours Traffic made their long-awaited return to Toronto, after supported Zeus on multiple dates of this tour. Other than their CMW set, they’ve been keeping a low-profile this last little while, having undergone a line-up change following the departure of guitarist Alec O’Hanley. With new member Nathan Gill on bass, Andy McDonald has taken over guitar and back-up vocal duties, a role he’s settling into quite nicely. Liam Corcoran is of course still on lead vocals and guitar, with Derek Ellis rounding out the band on drums.

They started their set with two new songs, both which had that old-time, light-hearted “summer song” feel to them. Playing folky pop-rock that oozes East Coast charm, Corcoran’s voice just feels like a warm and airy breeze. They’ve always been my go-to warm weather band and these new songs happily appear to be a return to the perfect essence of their quintessential summer album Little Jabs.

They then got into some of their older material with “Whenever We Finish” and “Happiness Burns.” The band inserted one more new song into the set – this one a bit rockier than the rest – before finally giving the audience what they were truly dying for with some of their most fan-favourite and danceable tracks “Sure Can Start” and “Heroes of the Sidewalk.”

Having personally waited since November 2010 to see them again, their set felt like it came to a close much too quickly. Ending with “Jezebel” and “Stuck for the Summer,” the crowd, many of whom had come specifically for Two Hours Traffic, were roaring for more. With Toronto being the last date on their tour, the band is headed into the studio to record – luckily Corcoran promises they will be back in Toronto come Fall!

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The Elwins

From the little town of Keswick, Ontario, The Elwins have made quite the name for themselves in Toronto over the past year. They showed obvious excitement to be playing on the large stage of The Phoenix, but if there were any nerves surrounding opening for Zeus, Matthew Sweeney (guitar, vocals), Feurd Moore (guitar, keys), Travis Stokl (drums), and Nathan Vanderwielen (taking on bass duties in place of newcomer Christopher Shannon) sure didn’t show it.

Starting their set by announcing “Let’s get jiggy, it’s gonna be fun,” well, that’s pretty much exactly what it was. From the ever infectious “Stuck in the Middle” to “Time To Kill Time” to a kazoo solo during “Propinquity,” it was nothing but fun, and it was great to see them looking right at home.

Wanting to engage the audience for their last number, Sweeney and Moore taught them the chorus to “Fox Tale“ as well as the corresponding dance moves – which as you can imagine, involved fox ears as well as shaking your foxtail. Like something out of a movie, the majority of the already large crowd happily complied. I was honestly impressed by the number of people that participated this early on in the night. But I suppose it’s difficult to refuse the request of the charming mustachioed Moore. It was quite a sight to see the venue turn into one big sing- and dance-along.

From the response the band received, it’s safe to say that The Elwins and their quirky pop songs won over the hearts of the Phoenix and hopefully they walked away with some new fans.

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Categories: Live Music


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