Walk Off The Earth + Gabrielle Shonk @ Mtelus – 13th February 2019

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On my way to MTelus to see Walk Off the Earth (WOTE, as their fans know them), I stopped to grab a bite and catch up on the news. Cadet is right by the theatre, so I grabbed a seat at the bar and had a glass of wine and the beef tartare (it’s so good) and caught up on my music news. In case you haven’t heard, Ryan Adams officially sucks. I got so caught up in the New York Times article and my yummy snack that by the time I arrived, at 8:30pm, it was intermission. I had missed the opener, Gabrielle Shonk.

But MTelus is massive, and I set about trying to find someone I knew in the crowd who had seen her and could tell me something. The place is packed and the energy is unmistakeably upbeat. I feel like I’m on the floor of the Bell Centre. Immediately, two thoughts: no way am I checking my jacket, and I don’t want to spend the whole show taking notes. I decide to focus more on the feel of the show and not give you a play-by-play, if that’s cool this time around. I googled it, and there is no set format for a concert review. Let me enjoy my free concert ticket to this famous band I just discovered. (What’s the opposite of a hipster? That’s me.)

I’m giddy to be out of the house for the first time this week. We just got a puppy and she is two handfuls – both size-wise and metaphorically. As I’m looking around with excitement and curiosity, I nearly trip over a child. Then I notice another kid, and a baby strapped to her dad’s chest. There are young couples and groups of friends, anglophones, francophones, and more, and I see a woman in a colourful top with a gorgeous matching head wrap, and another few with hijabs. It’s the first time since I started reviewing shows almost a year ago that I’ve seen genuine multiculturalism.

I’m still convinced I’ll run into someone I know at this show (I don’t though), plus, now that I know WOTE is a bigger deal than I initially thought, I want a good view of the stage. I head up to the balcony, and find a spot on the landing just as the show begins. I’m immediately asked to move, and I’m asked to move twice more throughout the evening. MTelus’s security is not fucking around. Also, Carrie-Ann clearly doesn’t know where she’s allowed to stand. (Neither does anyone else. It’s really, really packed.) I did, however, get to experience all views of the stage as I moved around throughout the night in what was basically a perimeter sweep.

It is my least-favourite thing to watch pre-made videos that introduce the show, and WOTE has one that surpasses the five-minute mark. I’m a bit bored in spite of the high-speed chase on the screen in front of me, but finally the band comes on with a light show and they are so much fun that I immediately forgive them. The audience is into all of it, clapping and singing along.

When the first song ends, one of the band members acknowledges that they are missing a member tonight, and thanks the crowd for coming out regardless. It explains the mis-step in choreography when someone came out in a WOTE CREW tee shirt to hold a triangle for Sarah Blackwood to hit. I find out later that Mike “Beard Guy” Taylor died this past December. The band paid homage to him throughout the show, and it felt like a celebration of his life.

In fact, the entire event feels like a celebration, with a light and smoke show, confetti, and those inflatable tube men you see at the carwash. I can also see balloons in the rafters ready to be dropped into the pit. I’m really excited when they play Teenage Dirtbag, one of the covers that made them famous, and they follow it up with a medley that incorporates Somebody That I Used to Know, Shape of You, Stand By Me, No Diggity, No Scrubs, and about five other songs. It reminds me of the 4-chord medley by Axis of Awesome (check it out if you have no idea what I’m talking about).

The show is full of sing-a-longs, including their hits Home We’ll Go and Red Hands, and covers like Bohemian Rhapsody – Beard Guy’s favourite – which is sung almost entirely by the crowd. They do everything you would expect – they trade instruments, have a choreographed fight during Taekwondo, and use colourful PVC pipes as instruments. They dance, they use the entire stage, and they make lots of jokes about “special” brownies.

The place is just full of so much happy. Sometimes, reviewing shows, I start to feel like a concert-detective, taking notes in my phone like some kind of judgmental Veronica Mars, but the energy in this room is infectious. The last song plays, the balloons drop and more confetti blasts out over the crowd. I leave with a newfound love for these fun, Canadian, all-ages cuties.

SETLIST

  1. Fire in My Soul
  2. Fifth Avenue
  3. Gang of Rhythm
  4. Hey Ya (Outkast cover)
  5. Teenage Dirtbag (Weezer cover)
  6. Somebody That I Used to Know Medley
  7. Taekwondo
  8. Home We’ll Go (minus Steve Aoki)
  9. Girls Like You (Maroon 5 cover)
  10. Red Hands
  11. Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen cover)
  12. Sing it All Away

ENCORE

  1. Come On
  2. Hold On (The Break)
  3. Rule the World

Review – Carrie-Ann Kloda
Photo – Andrea-Hunter

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