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Bruce Springteen / The Go Team / The Deadly Snakes

(31 Dec 1969: Lee's Place/Air Canada Centre/The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern — Toronto)


Bruce Springteen
The Go Team
The Deadly Snakes


Saturday July 16: My eyes creep open—another hot and murky day in Toronto. Staring at the white wall in front of my bed, I’m confused: why aren’t my ears ringing? I should be completely bent. Nobody told me to beware July’s ides, and I had no idea of what I was getting myself into. Wednesday, it was the Go! Team. Thursday, Bruce Springsteen. Then Friday night, all this rapture turned to black as the Deadly Snakes left the stage. Three awe-inspiring shows that couldn’t have less to do with each other. Three amazing nights that shouldn’t have ended and really, should’ve ended me.


You may already be thinking that Liam Colle must be some kind of fictional character: The all-purpose, concert-going android. Well forget it, this robot’s got soul. Nevertheless, it is strange how this week came together. I have been waiting for the Deadly Snakes show all my life. Finally, the Snakes were playing the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, the legendary Toronto concert venue. Oh, how I’ve waited to see Toronto’s rock heroes throw down in their rightful abode. Naturally I marked that night off my calendar weeks ago, but the tickets for the other two performances fell right into my lap—having brothers and friends is good for something after all.


Okay, pretend it’s stiflingly hot, the kind of hot where underwear is a liability. This is no hypnotism act—check it out, smartass. Lately, Toronto’s about the hottest place on earth outside of Baghdad. So it’s sweltering, and my friend Sean tells me he can get us on the guest list for the Go! Team. He’s a big wheel advertising exec, or maybe a bicycle courier - I don’t know (our friendship’s based more on drug-fuelled freestyle battles than something resembling communication). Anyways, this show’s been sold out for months, so I’m psyched to go. We arrive at the smallish downtown club at an obscenely early hour and it’s all scalpers and hipsters scrounging for tickets. Suffice it to say, I felt pretty sleazy waltzing right in, but the guilt washed away quickly. The place was electric. Everybody seemed anxious and there was a noble excitement coursing through the place. There was none of that arms-crossed, waiting for the band to nullify their buzz, posturing.


As soon as the band hit the stage, shit caught fire. I’d listened to the Go! Team’s Thunder, Lightning, Strike, so I thought I knew what to expect - I was wrong. First of all, it’s not usually safe to expect incessant dancing and crowd participation from a Toronto crowd. Secondly, having only listened to their LP, there’s no way in hell I could’ve imagined the remarkable band that the Go! Team have become. Formerly a one-man project, adding an MC and four multi-instrumentalists to the fray has seriously elevated the Go! Team. The band knows it too, as on almost every song at least one Team member would crack a smile. Along with the audience, the band was stuck in “holy fuck” gear throughout the concert. The set only lasted an hour, but in that short time we all witnessed something pretty rare in music today, something resembling importance. It was hard to say goodnight, but the pretty girls eating popsicles outside eased my exit.


Important new music; perish the thought, right? Well, thinking is exactly what I tried to kill when my brother called me up the next afternoon with a ticket to Bruce Springsteen. There was an extra seat in his company’s private box. I was still licking my wounds from last night (not a reference to the popsicle pretties), so this proposal was more daunting than it should have been. But for dissension’s sake I had to go. Plus, I’d seen Bruce and the E Street Band once before, and it was a completely enthralling experience. This time around, on the heels of his sombre Devils and Dust, it would be the man sans the band. That proved irrelevant, as an army of men would have been hard pressed to equal the force of Springsteen’s performance.


A rare artist who has managed to evolve while also maintaining his integrity, Springsteen is exactly that, an artist. He added a new dimension to each song in a mixed set that spanned his entire career. With dusky keys and guitar mounting his shockingly trenchant vocals, Springsteen transformed a cavernous hockey arena into an intimate basement bar somewhere in the swamps of… Paris. Anyone who came for the greatest hits package was definitely flummoxed by his closer, a cover of synth-punk pioneer Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream”. Absolutely flooring. And since I was still repercussing from the Go! Team’s revels, the floor was where I belonged. Goodnight stars. Goodnight music.


Friday morning dawns and the TGIF refrain seems entirely ridiculous. After the last two nights, the concert of my dreams now feels like a chore. Yet, after a little internal pep talk I was reinvigorated. When I arrived at Toronto’s darkest concert venue, I thought everybody must have opted for disco bowling. The place was empty and my respect for the Go! Team and Springsteen started to turn to resentment. Over the last six years the Deadly Snakes have made some of the most exciting rock and roll this side of Stockholm, and look where it has led them—to an empty hometown comeback show on a Friday night.


Thankfully the night took a turn as opening act Tangiers jumped the stage. The ‘Shoe started to fill up and it was starting to feel like the hot place to be once again. Tangiers set up a solid foundation for the headliners to build upon and, oh my, did the Snakes deliver. A set highlighted by some tremendous songs off their upcoming Porcella record, the band was tight, loud, and uncouth. Guitarist and vocalist, Andre Ethier, was so bemused by the crowd support he wondered aloud, “Is this our best show ever?” Maybe it was Andre, maybe it was. And maybe this was my best week as well.

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