William Prince @ Roy Thomson Hall

William Prince
William Prince @ Roy Thomson Hall

. : : June 15th, 2019 : : .

I’d never heard of William Prince before seeing his set at Roy Thomson Hall, which is crazy given how ubiquitous he’s been since releasing his Reliever album earlier this year.

Somewhat fittingly, Prince bantered over the opening chords of the night’s opening song Earthly Days, “You wouldn’t even know that it took me 15 — 20 years to be an overnight success.”

The name recognition wasn’t there, that’s true. But it wasn’t long before it was apparent that Prince wasn’t exactly a novice at this either.

His warm, smokey voice and expert finger-picking were the first clue, but the ease and charm with which he bantered with the audience is the sign of comfort only someone with well over a decade of performances under their belts can pull off.

As the second song of the evening began, a couple of late-comers began to take their seats in the first couple of rows. Catching his eye, Prince heckled them in the same sing-song vocal style of the song, “I’m gonna wait ’til the people to sit down / Even though I don’t have time to wait for the people to sit down / ‘This is a union show / don’t you damn go over’.” Anyone in the audience ambivalent by this point was won over, and the crowd burst into spontaneous laughter.

The timing couldn’t have been better in terms of audience engagement: the interrupted song was stand out track, Wasted, which pairs contradictions such as “I love staying up so late / I love getting a good night’s sleep,” and “I could go for some food right now / I could care less if we ever eat.” The contradictions are fitting, as the chorus starts with the positive piece of advice, “Gotta love what you do, babe / for that jingle-jangle” before immediately juxtaposing it with the decidedly more pessimistic reminder that “We only get a few days / nobody makes it outta here anyway.”

If you weren’t somehow won over by the infectiously catchy song, Prince was quick to remind you of his innate charm: after about a minute speaking about the metaphors behind the song Reliever and his love of baseball, he jokes, “This might just be my last song; I might just chill it out for like, 19-minutes, you know?” When he says that, you almost wish he will. You find that his banter is just as important to the performance as the songs themselves. He’s instantly and irrefutably likeable, and that connection re-enforces the engagement between audience and performer.

He recounted an earlier performance at The Drake Underground where he performed a set over 2-hours, but indicated much of it just was just him talking, which elicited more laughter but it is a shame that his “overnight” success likely means he’ll rarely step foot on a stage as intimate as The Drake again. The intimacy of that audience-performer connection is a fragile thing, but if there’s anyone capable of scaling it up, I have no doubt William Prince is the man for the job.

The recording itself is decent, if not average. My Sound Professionals microphone batteries were dead (again), so I used the Edirol’s internal microphones. There’s some shuffling in the first two minutes as I quickly get everything set up and adjust the levels, and although I had a great box seat that kept me at an advantageously elevated level above the audience on the floor, it was off to the side so the tape is somewhat distant sounding.

That being said, William Prince turned out to be a fantastic, engaging opening act that grasped my intention in a tight, unrelenting fist. I’ll definitely be looking out to catch Prince again in the future, and hopefully I’ll be able to report back with a quality tape more suitable to the performance.

  1. [banter] [cut]
  2. Earthly Days
  3. [banter]
  4. Wasted
  5. [banter]
  6. Reliever
  7. [banter]
  8. Breathless
  9. [banter]
  10. Always Have What We Had

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Wasted (Live in Toronto) [MP3 sample]

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