Tag Archives: Danforth Music Hall

Mazzy Star fades into view four times at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall

Good behaviour earns fans three encores when Mazzy Star pulls into Toronto with a phone ban
Tom Beedham

Mazzy Star's candlelit stage setup at the Danforth permeated an intimate atmosphere made only more intimate by a strict phone ban at Toronto's Danforth Music Hall on Nov. 16.  Photo: Tom Beedham

Mazzy Star’s candlelit stage setup permeated an intimate atmosphere made only more intimate by a strict ban on phone use throughout the concert at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall on Nov. 16. Photo: Tom Beedham

The triple-encored, 100-minute concert Mazzy Star gave Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall on Nov. 16 was definitely one it will have to live up to next time (and Hope Sandoval sort of promised a next time).

The first audiences that received Mazzy Star in the late 1980s and throughout the ’90s met it as a band that wed the devices of alternative rock’s then-contemporary vanguards with a minimalist version of psychedelic rock and the longstanding traditions of folk and bluegrass. They were champions of a gaping melting pot, and that melting pot sounded sweet – pun intended.

But in spite of the darling status Mazzy Star’s music earned, it wasn’t long after the band drifted into the public arena (and arenas) when audiences could decipher how the engrossing atmospheres the band was concerned with producing sonically didn’t make accommodations for rabid fans or snap-happy photographers. While Hope Sandoval’s narcotic pouts are prominent across the band’s catalogue, the singer displayed an early aversion to the spotlight: notoriously introverted onstage, Sandoval would rarely interact with fans, and the band responded to her hesitancies by playing in near-darkness.

successful concerts ride on so much more than physical presentation. And that is especially true for reactivated bands bringing new albums in tow.

So when security warned Toronto fans lined up early for the concert of a strict policy against camera and cell phone use in effect for the night (they instructed fans that simply must send text messages do so from the hall’s lobby), most accepted the band’s negotiation of modern “Instagram everything” concert culture as par for the course.

But clichéd discussions describing Mazzy Star’s set as “a blast from the past” or “an indication that absence makes the heart grow fonder” would fail to recognize that what Mazzy Star brought to the table was so much more than a validation of long-whetted nostalgia.

Candlelit and flanked by a wash of purple backlights, the intimate stage awaiting fans inside the Danforth was enchantingly reminiscent of the MTV Unplugged concerts other bands played in Mazzy Star’s heyday (especially Nirvana’s, which turns 20 this week) – another thing the cell phone ban helped facilitate – but successful concerts ride on so much more than physical presentation. And that is especially true for reactivated bands bringing new albums in tow.

Although they held off on revealing any proof of it until two years after Hope Sandoval teased it to Rolling Stone in 2009 when doing press behind her solo project with The Warm Inventions, Mazzy Star and its Sept. 24-released Seasons of Your Day has been in gestation since 1997.

Even if you walked into the show knowing this and you hadn’t heard any of Seasons of Your Day (which would be your own fault, given that almost a third of it was issued ahead of the album over the double A-side “Common Burn” / “Lay Myself Down” single in 2011 and then the video for “California” in August this year), you might have been surprised by how well the new material works with the old.

In fact, you were sort of forced to realize it when Mazzy Star opened with successive double representations of the releases that chronologically bracket their 2000-interrupted 1997-2010 hiatus: “Look on Down from the Bridge” and “Cry, Cry” from Among My Swan, and Seasons of Your Day cuts “In the Kingdom” and “Lay Myself Down.” (Full setlist below.) Placing these specific selections at the top of the setlist was actually sort of genius, really. It meant that in the first 15 minutes, Mazzy Star played the final song on Among My Swan and the opening track on Seasons of Your day, effectually serving fans a naked reminder of (first) exactly where they left off, and (second) how the band’s general dedication to continuity shines through from the very beginning of its new record.

It also made fans take in the shear cohesion of Mazzy Star’s musicianship.

The organ-prominent “Look on Down from the Bridge” and “In the Kingdom” forced fans to soak in perhaps-underappreciated keyboardist Suki Ewers’s skills, while the chord-restrained minimalism of “Cry, Cry” and “Lay Myself Down” might have persuaded guitar geeks craving the incendiary impressionism of psychedelic rabbit holes like “She Hangs Brightly” to turn their intention instead to pedal steel player Josh Yenne and his mournful bottleneck gliding.

And if you weren’t close enough to take in the finer details of the stage’s goings-on, there were always the projections of starry skies, stormy seas, and vintage photos to feast your eyes on as Mazzy Star cranked out its smoldering themes for lucid somnambulism all night long.

The whole set was a thing of delicate balance, with an especially memorable presentation of “Into Dust” at its centerpiece. Personnelled just by Sandoval on vocals, Roback on an acoustic guitar, and the bassist for the night (Seasons of Your Day features My Bloody Valentine drummer and Hope Sandoval’s Warm Inventions bandmate Colm Ó Cíosóig on bass and Cíosóig continues to receive credit as the band’s bassist, but MBV’s recently concluded tour and Mazzy Star’s current one overlapped significantly, so who this was is anyone’s guess [update: Mazzy Star drummer Keith Mitchell has confirmed the bassist and violist for the night was his son, Paul Mitchell]) on violin, it permeated ambience so still you could hear whispered interactions from the Danforth’s bar. The intimate performance – and the night in general – was arguably made even better by the general respect fans demonstrated by heeding to the band’s wishes surrounding photography.

The band certainly seemed to appreciate it, too.

Although they denied fans a performance of Seasons of Your Day closer “Flying Low” – a track that’s closed the regular set portions of most of this tour’s recent setlists – what the band provided in the aftermath did more than make up for it, returning for not one, not two, but three encores.

Fans got the seemingly planned encore of Keith Mitchell’s hand drummed “California” and Sandoval’s witchy conjuring “So Tonight That I Might See,” and then, after the band returned from offstage for a second time, the reluctantly optimistic “I’ve Been Let Down.”

But the biggest payoff fans got for their behaviour easily came when the band returned for a third time and delivered a jammed out cover of The Colours Out of Time’s 1981-recorded “Rock Section,” which was a significant milestone. Infamously recorded in 1993 in front of a live audience as a “Black Session” for the C’est Lenoir show on French radio station France Inter, the band is rumoured to have played this song live even as far back as 1988 – the year in which Hope Sandoval joined David Roback in Opal before it was later renamed Mazzy Star – and has turned it into something of its own, but the band hasn’t been reported as having played it live since 1997 – the year of its break up. (So Toronto, feel lucky.)

When the band reached the coda of the heavily improvised, Richard Wright-like keyboarded rendition of the song, Sandoval approached the mic to give what was perhaps the most stage banter she’s ever given.

“See you guys later.”

Regardless of whether or not that’s true, I hope she follows up on it.

“Look On Down From The Bridge”
“Cry, Cry”
“In The Kingdom”
“Lay Myself Down”
“Ride It On”
“Does Someone Have Your Baby Now”
“Into Dust”
“She Hangs Brightly”
“Fade Into You”
“Blue Flower” (Slap Happy)
Encore 1
“So Tonight That I Might See”
Encore 2
“I’ve Been Let Down”
Encore 3
“Rock Section” (The Colours Out Of Time)


The Breeders celebrate ‘Last Splash’ at Danforth Music Hall

Kim Deal (left), Josephine Wiggs (centre), Jim MacPherson (back), and Kelley Deal (left) recently reformed to bring a 20th anniversary celebration of their 1993 Breeders album, Last Splash. (Photo by Tom Beedham)

Kim Deal (left), Josephine Wiggs (centre), Jim MacPherson (back), and Kelley Deal (left) recently reformed to bring a 20th anniversary celebration of their 1993 Breeders album, Last Splash, on tour. (Photo by Tom Beedham)

The Breeders have been doing music for 23 years and counting, but they’re mostly recognized as a bastion of grunge-y ’90s guitar rock. Blame that on the group’s many periods of inactivity – beholden to Kim Deal’s varying Pixies-related obligations and other band members turning back to their fulltime bands and solo projects; a couple handfuls of lineup changes; Kelley Deal’s 1994 heroin bust, rehabilitation, and the band’s subsequent hiatus; etc. – but the group’s never really thrown in the towel.

Still, due to all of the distractions The Breeders have had to entertain, they were never really given a shot at properly touring their 1993 full length, Last Splash.

Enter “LSXX,” the group’s marketing of their current tour and 20th anniversary celebration of their critically acclaimed and most popular album. The tour sees the band – reformed with its 1993 lineup of Kim and Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs, and Jim MacPherson paying (and playing) homage to its cornerstone album as faithfully as possible.

When the LSXX tour rolled into Danforth Music Hall on May 11, they gave anyone looking for a taste of (in some cases adopted) nostalgia a big steaming buffet.

The stage setup honouring Last Splash right down to the gear, a set of wind chimes joined Macpherson’s drum kit – the very same chimes used when the group recorded Last Splash at Coast Recorders & Brilliant Sounds in San Francisco in 1993, Kim announced – for execution of a fully steadfast performance of “Invisible Man.”

In a similar vein, Macpherson and Wiggs swapped drum and bass duties for “Roi” since that was how it was recorded. Despite all their efforts at providing an authentic rendering of their album, the group couldn’t swing carting the Minimoog featured on the same song.

“Minimoogs are hard to travel with, so we sampled it,” said Kim, motioning to a sampler placed by the bass stacks.

When Kim told the crowd, “Kelley has the blues,” before her sister took over vocal duties for “I Just Wanna Get Along,” fans even received some of the candidness that’s built directly into Last Splash; responding with her regrets that she couldn’t follow her sister’s cue with an improvised blues riff, Kelley echoed her 1992 self, who, just entering the band as the group’s (then) third guitarist, didn’t really know how to play her instrument.

The band were also joined onstage by Carrie Bradley, who’s performed additional instruments (violin, keyboard, tambourine) for Breeders recordings and tours as early as their 1990 debut LP, Pod, and as late as their 2008 full length, Mountain Battles. Bradley’s band Ed’s Redeeming Qualities also wrote “Drivin’ on 9,” covered by The Breeders on Last Splash.

The group played through the 15-track LP in its original sequence, getting their most successful single, “Cannonball” (to which Kim sang the fuzzier bits through a styrofoam cup fixed over a mic) out of the way early in the set rather than holding onto it for an encore presentation, as some might have anticipated.

Immediately following album closer “Roi (Reprise),” The Breeders exited the stage, letting fans’ imaginations run wild. All they’d been promised was Last Splash, after all. But the crowd response to The Breeders’ set was nothing to be denied an encore, and the band soon returned to deliver numbers culled from releases for which the bulk of the members onstage could claim putting in studio hours: Pod as well as the Safari and Head to Toe (1992 and 1994) EPs.

The band played through their versions of Guided By Voices’ “Shocker in Gloomtown,” and The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” as well as “Lime House,” “Oh!,” and “Don’t Call Home” to round out the night, but not without some crowd interaction. Surveying the crowd for more material they could consider learning for a later gig, they acknowledged one front-and-centre fan that requested Pod’s “Iris.”

Last Splash rises and falls from fuzzy ragers you could throw on a party playlist to some more chilled out ballads, and for some albums, that won’t translate well in a concert setting. But on May 11, The Breeders proved that an album as definitive of alternative rock as Last Splash is won’t do anything but put concert-long smiles on all those in the room – Breeders members and fans alike.

“Thanks for helping us celebrate this,” Kim and Kelley had both said by the end of the night. And there was no doubting their sincerity.


“New Year”


“Invisible Man”

“No Aloha”


“Do You Love Me Now”


“I Just Wanna Get Along”

“Mad Lucas”

“Divine Hammer”




“Drivin’ on 9”

“Roi (Reprise)”


“Shocker in Gloomtown” (Guided By Voices)

“Happiness is a Warm Gun” (The Beatles)

“Lime House”


“Don’t Call Home”