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Rocky Votolato @ Drake Underground

. : : March 23rd, 2011 : : .

50-weeks and 80-blog posts ago, I started blog.haterhigh.com. It was after I’d just gotten home from my first visit to the Drake Underground, a venue that quickly stole my heart and enticed me back to see over a dozen bands over the last year.

But on that evening in April 2010, it was my favourite singer-songwriter Rocky Votolato who brought me out. He was touring on the back of his latest album, True Devotion, and his tour has had him return to the Drake twice more since. Luckily, I was able to capture all three of the sets, and it’s nice that what is the last leg of the True Devotion tour brings him back to the crime scene close enough to the one-year anniversary to warrant a celebration.

The venue was emptier than expected, but still a decent-sized crowd. I blame it largely on the fact that it was a Wednesday evening, but moreso because we were in the midst of an unseasonable amount of snowfall after a week of warm, mid-spring-like weather.

Promptly after opening act Matt Pond finished his set, Rocky took the stage and performed as if he were performing for a crowd ten times larger than the venue’s capacity. Barely pausing to banter or chat throughout the night, Rocky clearly meant business. He brought a lot of familiar tunes and stacked them up with a handful of fresh surprises (The Night’s Disguise perhaps my favourite amongst them). His trademark raspy voice was on full emotive display and his trademark guitar picking has never seemed better. The “solo” during Streetlights? Blew. My. Mind.

The night was not without its missteps, though. Rocky was joined by Matt Pond and band for White Daisy Passing, but you could barely tell. Matt’s vocal style is much softer than Rocky’s, and the mic volume wasn’t adjusted to properly compensate. Worse, however, was (as far as I could tell at the venue AND on the recording), the feeds from his band’s instruments didn’t come through the speakers AT ALL. The cello and electric guitar might as well have been pantomimed for all I could tell, which is too bad. It would have made for a unique version of an otherwise standard fare.

The only other ho-hum moment of the evening was the dispassionate first-half of the powerful set staple Suicide Medicine, which felt uncharacteristically disconnected until halfway through the second verse. Rocky recovered with a powerful ending that more than made up for it, but the contrast was stark and noticeable even on the tape (seriously, you hardly even need to listen for it).

I don’t want these minor misgivings to colour what was otherwise an amazing night of music. Rocky packed great 18 songs into just over an hour’s performance that left the entire room hungry for more. Don’t believe me? Listen to the multitude of desperate pleas for favourite songs as Rocky announced Silver Trees as the final performance in an already extended encore.

While it may not have been a capacity crowd, it was one who has no end of love for Rocky Votolato. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that his next album (expected to be recorded this fall) will bring him back to Toronto many more times, and hopefully back to the Drake Underground.

01. Tinfoil Hat
02. Fool’s Gold
03. Portland Is Leaving
04. [banter]
05. White Daisy Passing
06. [banter]
07. Sparklers
08. Ghost Writer
09. Alabaster
10. Night’s Disguise
11. [banter]
12. Goldfield
13. Streetlights
14. Fragments
15. Makers
16. Suicide Medicine
17. Montana
18. [encore]
19. Instrument
20. I’ll Catch You
21. Mixtapes / Cellmates
22. Silver Trees

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Silver Trees (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]


Thanks to Rocky Votolato, Matt Pond and band, the staff at my favourite venue, the Drake Underground, and you, dear listener, for a year of making this blog not only a great deal of fun, but a great success.

Published inLive Recordings

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