Rocky Votolato isn’t a physically imposing man, but he carries a lot of presence. That presence was palpable Monday night in Toronto, filling the small room of the Drake Underground and grabbing everyone’s attention.
On tour to promote his new album, True Devotion, it was Votolato’s first visit to Toronto since 2007. The Texas-born singer explained that since his last visit he had been on “a spiritual journey” to find himself and get back to what mattered most: the music. True Devotion is the product of that journey.
Performing unplugged with an acoustic guitar and harmonica, Votolato sang his traditional American folk songs, including “Instrument”, “Suicide Medicine” and, fan-favorite, “Montana”. His gravelly voice was a natural compliment to his strumming. An unwavering intensity filled his eyes while he sang, keeping listeners silent. Their gazes locked forward and relented only after the completion of each song, at which point passionate applause and spirited whistling erupted suddenly, released from the crowd’s restraints. New-ish songs like “Sparklers” and “Lucky Clover Coin” elicited the same enthusiastic applause as older material, and a fantastic version of the Cat Stevens classic “Father and Son” highlighted an already solid set. As an encore, Votolato asked the crowd for requests: “Silver Trees”, “The Wrong Side of Reno” and “Goldfield”.
Photos by Dave MacIntyre