Big Wreck + Texas King @ Corona Theatre – 28 November 2019

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Big Wreck at Corona Theatre

I have to be honest and say that I was waiting for this concert with an overload of expectations.

Right after the release of their last album but for the sun, I started listening avidly to every single song in search of that specific sound; that guitar and voice that makes the Big Wreck this perfect mixture of heavy rock and depth melodies. Therefore, while I have found it definitely rich in “hefty” notes and powerful musical excursus, I thought that now what was missing was the “live part” of it all. 

Texas King

That said on the 28th of November, I was at the Corona Theatre, one of my favourite venues in Montréal, glad to have finally had the chance to see them live for the first time.

How could the experience be described in few words? Probably as a virtuoso exercise of pure pleasure (for connoisseurs).

However, before chronicling what happened when the stage turned alive and met Ian Thornley, his guitar, and friends, I definitely need to give a shout out to their opening act, Texas King. This band from London (ON) active from 2013 put the scene on fire, with a pure infusion of rock ‘n’ roll, a perfect warm-up to the show.

Touring to promote their new album Circles, Jordan Macdonald, Colin Gray, Phil Spina and Rob Shipway, literally inflamed the crowd with a succession of rousing pieces, such as Only One, and nicely played ballads like Flowers. Embracing every single corner of the stage, these 4 musicians from Ontario woke up the night with an energetic performance, bravo!!

A few minutes after 9pm, the famously awaited band entered the stage amid the fans’ jubilation, opening the gig with the song Voices, the first piece of the album.

With a new configuration that included guitarist Chris Caddell, to substitute for Brian Doherty who tragically died of cancer in June of this year, the group, right from the beginning, started stating their presence on the stage by performing pieces from the new album interspersed with old favourites.

A long solo by Thornley made clear what the night was meant to be about: rock, rock and…rock! Unquestionably, his guitar, or to better say guitars (as he often changed instruments, making us mere mortals, crying of joy and envy over those beauties!) played a leading role throughout the whole performance.

Thornley’s mastery exhibited itself through the execution of unattainable notes with his hand moving magically over the fretboard.

After performing In My Head, we were catapulted into That Song, the masterpiece from ‘97, to remind us of his beautiful crystal-pure voice, the trademark behind all these hits. After another new piece, Locomotive, the first single released for the album, we were drowned into a vortex by the guitar’s intro line of Too Far Gone. It is here that we rediscovered that deep heavy soul of Big Wreck, with a piece that goes as rock as it could, with Caddell, Thornley and McMillan lost into their inner musical space while Chuck Keeping hit the drums articulating the rhythm. That song, amazingly executed, opened to a first cover, Ahead by a Century, by The Tragically Hip and ran into Wolves, leaving us suspended in a dream, sung at the top of one’s lungs.

Alibi, the next piece on the setlist, and one of my favorite songs of the album, with its groovy sound, made room for a cover of Amazing Grace, entirely executed by Thornely alone with a beautiful double-neck guitar. It was kept by the singer to perform the melodic Albatross, from the namesake album of 2011.

Now projected into a sort of intimist dimension, we were completely captivated and therefore ready to get “kidnapped” by Ladylike, with its alluring melody and sexy guitar. After performing Inhale, a new solo carried us into One More Chance, punctuated in the middle by another ecstatic segment, opening to the grand finale with Ghosts merging into Blown Wide Open through a crescendo for the perfect ending: outstanding! 

The group left the stage, just to be called again to deliver 3 more pieces: another cover from The Tragically Hip, In View. The Oaf, their first hit, blended its central part with This is Where My Heart Is, a cover from Thornley, performed by him solo. 

What else is there to say, as we were left speechless, somehow still astonished by the execution of the entire concert that didn’t leave space to any flaws.

Ian Thornley literally possessed the stage, probably becoming the show himself for all of us that were looking at this tall figure, oftentimes lost in his own notes, arousing us with his mastery of the guitar. Surely a pleasure for fetishists.

The songs’ technical rendition was impeccable and the entire performance could have been conceived as cathartic. Perfection was the keyword through which to read this entire concert; that quality we are looking for when recording. Maybe, overall, the only glitch was exactly that: I wouldn’t have minded seeing some imperfections. 

SETLIST:

  • Voices
  • In My Head
  • That Song
  • Locomotive
  • Too Far Gone
  • Ahead By a Century (The Tragically Hip cover)
  • Wolves
  • Alibi
  • Amazing Grace (cover)
  • Albatross
  • Ladylike
  • Inhale
  • One More Chance 
  • Ghosts
  • Blown Wide Open

Encore:

  • In View (The Tragically Hip cover)
  • The Oaf
  • This is Where My Heart Is (Thornley cover)

Review & photos – Francesca Sacerdoti

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