Big Thief at Massey Hall; Tuesday April 19, 2022

I first came across Big Thief thanks to a post Lucy Dacus put out there. It wasn’t this one, but you can tell what a big fan of the band she is and particularly the album Masterpiece with this top albums post.

Can’t say I’ve ever cried at a Big Thief show, but if I could time travel to the Adelaide Hall show in 2016, I may shed some tears. Like most prolific acts, I struggle to develop a connection to EVERY album that a band releases (Big Thief have released four albums since 2016’s Masterpiece). Truthfully, I just haven’t connected with any of their other albums the way I did with Masterpiece. Maybe it’s timing in life, maybe it’s not putting in the work of listening. I have a lot on the go and I just don’t listen and absorb music the way I used to, but I’m trying to again. Trying to make time for music is a really weird thought, but it’s work and homework and time, and one only has so many hours in a day.

So a bit more on this show. We met up with some friends at the Imperial prior to and scarfed down far too much mediocre food and slurped down some beers. We chuckled about how the wave of music fans flock to the Imperial – a rough gem in a less than exciting part of town, especially if you live in Toronto. Yonge and Dundas is the fake Toronto that tourists long for, it’s our Time Square – bright lights, advertisements, and the smell of urine.

We made it minutes before the band started. We decided to skip the opener as we wanted to spend time with pals over standing in crowded room longer than we needed to. Big Thief opened with their new album’s opener “Change.” My friend Dom said it was her favourite tune, I joked to her that “she peaked early”. I don’t often get opening songs as my peak or climax of a show. For instance, my peak for this show would have been “Paul” from Masterpiece. Maybe I need to start mainstreaming my peaks and putting in the work to listen to songs that are likely to be played. The last three times I’ve watched Big Thief play they did not play “Paul”. Guess there’s YouTube for that, a curated concert.

We only got a few older tunes – “Real Love” and “Not” come to mind. Most of the songs from their new and mega diverse record Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You. They ended with “Spud Infinity” – which I’ve always thought sounded like Don MacLean’s “American Pie” with it’s repetitive sound and recaps throughout. Adrianne introduced her sibling who played the jaw harp, a key characteristic of the song.

Notably the band took a 5-6 minute break, which felt like eternity. It was a bit painful and indulgent, but we all respected it. Adrianne had recently posted that concert goers should keep quite while bands are playing. I think Toronto were on great behaviour at their Massey Hall gig. I’ll add folks were mostly masked and stationary, which I appreciated as someone that’s still easing into being in rooms with 1,000+ people. The band also asked for everyone to keep their masks on with polite signs as we walked into the venue. Strangely translated to French as well.

The band also did a drawn out version of “Not”, which led to an extended slowed down jam to finish. I told Adam that it was their “Cortez the Killer.” I feel like most bands channel their Neil Young energy or at least reference Neil Young when the play Massey Hall. Toronto’s big claim to fame!

The band sounded great – Adrianne was the front person, fellow singer Buck Meek took the supporting role in every aspect – guitars, vocals. A very different feel from when I saw them play at Adelaide Hall in 2016. Mind you, at that point they were likely married, nothing like a divorce to shake up a band!

The venue was outstanding – my first general admission Massey Hall gig – the chairs fold into the floor for versatility of concert experience. I think this was the first GA Massey show. 100% would recommend.

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