Listen here ye scurvy landlubbers. On the eve of March 22nd, I witnessed a great fable come to life before my very eyes. The great Alestorm finally played a show at Toronto’s Opera House, with Aether Realm and Crimson Shadows. Buckle down, mateys, as I tell ye this great tale, filled with ale, rum, and wenches aplenty.
Back in October, Alestorm announced a North American tour that, due to work visa issues, resulted in the band having to postpone their Canadian dates. They were finally back and it was Toronto’s own Crimson Shadows that opened the show. I knew I was in for a ride when five beautiful, long-haired, bearded men graced the stage. Their material was fast, aggressive, and powerful. Their frontman’s low, deathly growls were solid, and their guitarist’s surprisingly high cleans added some variety to their sound. Unfortunately, the mix didn’t favour Crimson Shadows. One guitar was significantly louder than the other, and a strange rattling in the bass guitar’s playing had me thinking the frontman’s vocal mic was distorting and crackling for the better half of their set. Aside from that annoyance, I really enjoyed these guys. I’d love to see them play a more intimate Toronto setting sometime soon.
Pairing their humour alongside the headliner’s over-the-top ridiculousness, Aether Realm kicked off their set by walking onstage to a mashup of “Smoke Weed Everyday” and the beat of the Thomas The Tank Engine theme. Obviously, a terrible song, but it’s good to see they’re well versed in their ‘meme-knowledge’. Their lead singer had a great attitude and, although he was noticeably drunk, he didn’t take himself too seriously and had a lot of fun with the crowd. For example, he charismatically encouraged the crowd to start Toronto’s “First ever triangle pit,” which, funnily enough, was the second attempted triangle pit I’ve seen in the city. (Spoiler alert, both attempts went horribly wrong). As if the crowd wasn’t hyped enough, Alestorm’s lead singer, and keytarist extraordinaire, Christopher Bowes, joined Aether Realm on stage wearing nothing but swim trunks, prompting them to go crazy. Aether Realm’s music was heavy, even folkish at times, but ultimately forgettable. What wasn’t forgettable was their frontman’s ability to properly hype up the crowd for what was to come.
After a decently long wait, Alestorm finally came onstage. I’ve noticed that barricades were set up for this show, which I’ve never seen at The Opera House. No doubt a past mistake that the venue didn’t want to recreate. Right from the get-go, you could sense the crowd’s energy, chanting every line of the opener “Keelhauled.” As great as the energy was, much to my surprise, this wasn’t the kind of show where beer was being thrown around in every direction. Maybe these people just wanted to drink their $9 beverages instead of throwing them into the crowd, the bastards. The crowd was equally receptive to each of the songs off Alestorm’s catalogue, new or old. Amid the countless highlights of their set, my personal favourite when was a group of at least one hundred people decided to collectively sit down amongst the thin layer of sweat and beer on the Opera House’s dirty floor, and, all in unison, row an invisible boat to the rhythm of “Nancy The Tavern Wench.” It was a load of fun, and made me realize just how out of shape I was. Did we contract Mumps from the ordeal? Very possible. Was it worth it? You bet your ass.
Although it was the only show on this short string of Canadian makeup shows that didn’t sell out, (Shame on you, Toronto!) it was one hell of a time. I thought for sure they were going to top Municipal Waste’s recent Opera House show in the “How many litres of beer were thrown by the crowd” department, but alas, I was wrong. Either way, I want to thank the lads in Alestorm for remembering our small country, and coming back to play those shows that were postponed back in October. It made for a memorable night that I’ll want to relive every chance I get.
Written by Mathieu Perrier
Photography by Gabby Rivera
*edited by Danielle Kenedy