Just two months after Streetlight Manifesto’s electric Toronto show, frontman Tomas Kalnoky was back in the city for a solo concert performed under the name Toh Kay. The laid-back, acoustic show was hosted by The Mod Club and welcomed an entirely different vibe from what I’m sure most Streetlight fans are used to. Arranged seating, plenty of tables, and a dimly-lit room introduced a couple of hundred people to a kind of show that I certainly don’t attend often enough.
With no opening act, the audience could experience what they came for much earlier in the night. Unfortunately for me, I had to take a 20-minute run in the heavy rain just to avoid being late. I still missed the first song of his performance but was immediately relieved when I stepped into the room. The sparsely attended hall was lit up with a digitally projected fireplace.
The show itself was sectioned into two parts. The first was just Tomas and his nylon-string acoustic guitar, playing vastly different renditions of crowd favourites. He alternated between songs he wanted to play and any requests from the audience. For someone who calls himself an amateur guitarist, his playing blew me away, plucking away at his strings like a banjo and running up and down chords at pretty ridiculous speeds. Tom would occasionally screw up or forget lyrics to his songs, but he handled it very light-heartedly. The whole audience would laugh it off and be essentially brought together by it. The vibe was intimate and friendly, which is a refreshing change considering Streetlight Manifesto has little to no interaction with the audience. He felt like an entirely different performer. Kalnoky’s lower register has such a different timbre than his highs, and that helped turn his fast, chaotic punk songs into slow, acoustic folk jams.
The second half of the show was more professional and serious. Two other musicians joined Kalnoky onstage to perform Streetlight’s unreleased sister album, The Hands That Thieve, in full. The trio was made up of a standup bass player and a very talented drummer who occasionally sang harmony and played a few keyboard lines. Despite taking a minute or two for the bass instrument to be audible, the three of them filled up the sound quite well.
The two-hour show ended on a high note, literally, with Tomas breaking out of his low register with the performance of “Would You Be Impressed?” It was an ideal closer and perfectly captured the fun atmosphere of the night, despite the serious tone of the song. As I walked back in the pouring rain with a CD in hand, I couldn’t help but keep a smile on my face as I sang a handful of Toh Kay’s tunes. Let’s hope he delivers on his promise to come back next year.
Written by Mathieu Perrier
*edited by Danielle Kenedy