When a popular band with international success goes a long time without visiting a certain part of the world, you can only expect a warm welcome when they finally return. That was the case with the UK’s The Subways, and their first North American tour since 2008. I had the chance to catch their first Toronto show in eight years at The Mod Club, and with support from Manchester’s Pins, and the local support of Secret Broadcast, it was a highly anticipated night for many.
Secret Broadcast was the first group of the night to perform. There wasn’t more than a couple dozen people in the venue by the time the Toronto band’s set had started, but they certainly made the most of it. Lead singer and guitarist Matt Lightstone urged the crowd to get closer to the stage and sing along, and although they were timid at first, the crowd was certainly having fun by the end of it. Their half-hour set was filled with good old rock n’ roll music that just about everyone can enjoy, and their cover of “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles certainly fit well in their otherwise original set list. Bassist Curtis Harding was one of the highlights, providing some solid higher harmonies while constantly moving on stage. He even sang leads for one song, and his strong voice, as well as his charisma and enthusiasm, actually makes him a better fit for the frontman role than Lightstone, in my opinion. Regardless, they played a solid set and did a great job firing up the crowd for the bands that followed.
Next up, hailing from Manchester, was Pins, with their interesting brand of poppy alt-rock. Unfortunately, I wasn’t too fond of the music itself. While some songs were okay, others dragged for too long, and ended before they got anywhere interesting. Either way, the all-female band performed their music well, and with the right amount of energy. Their keyboardist even switched over to guitar for one song, showing off her multi-instrumentalism. It was nice to be able to see her moving around the stage a bit more, and having fun while doing so. The band’s guitarists also found themselves working off of each other’s energy, and the with all five band members supplying either lead or backup vocals, the forty-five minute set was a good way of showing the crowd what they’re all about. They ended their set with a cover of “Hybrid Moments” by The Misfits. Although it was a bit out of their genre, it was one of the set’s highlights, and served as a good segue into the heavier band that would follow them.
As the lights dimmed and the three members of The Subways came marching on stage, the crowd erupted the way you’d expect after not being able to see a band for many years. As soon as they broke into their first song, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how they sounded much more full than any of the opening acts. This is especially impressive considering the lack of a second guitarist, as well as the drummer’s minimalist drum kit, which consisted of only a kick drum, a snare, a floor tom, and a crash cymbal. Not even a hi-hat, but he made the most of it, and played like a madman. Collectively, the band covered the stage as much as a three-piece could, with singer and guitarist Billy Lunn and bassist Charlotte Cooper parading around whenever possible, and never being on their two feet for more than a few seconds when not singing. Cooper’s energy in particular was unmatched that night, nailing every single note while she gave an incredibly active performance.
Lunn’s banter and quirks between songs made the set all the more memorable. As if the night wasn’t great enough, the band went on to play their encore songs without walking off stage first, with Lunn calling encores out for being “pretentious and awkward.” Mad respect to him for acknowledging the most overused and overrated thing in all of live music. They went on to finish their encore with their breakthrough hit “Rock and Roll Queen.” It was a perfect closing number, and the crowd was rightfully excited.
If I wasn’t a fan of The Subways before this show, I’m definitely one now.
Written by Mathieu Perrier
Photography by Danielle Kenedy
*edited by Kate Erickson