For the first time in my concert-going life, I really didn’t know if the show would truly be going on. The city had just been the unwilling recipient of 40 centimeters of snow, which had left an insane amount of snow removal trucks the unfortunate struggle of cleaning up an utter clusterfuck. Would Walk Off the Earth and Gabrielle Shonk make it? I should have known that it would take A LOT more than some shitty weather to keep a band like Walk Off the Earth from performing. After all, they are still surviving the loss of keyboardist Mike “Beard Guy” Taylor, who passe2d away right away before the new year in the midst of a world tour. Not only did they make it but they came to throw one hell of a party and celebrate the life of a dear friend.
Quebec singer/songwriter Gabrielle Shonk started the evening on a warm, mellow tone. Shonk has one of those voices that can stop an entire audience in their tracks. She was giving my friend Trish and I some serious Sarah McLachlan vibes. Her stripped back, minimalist style contrasted nicely with the over-the-top nature of Walk Off the Earth. Her songs have such an inviting quality to them that you don’t need more than a guitar, a bass, and a drumset to be a part of what she’s doing. Her song “Raindrops” in particular resonated. My only complaint is that her set was barely 30 minutes, and it could have been longer. As a result, it was difficult for her range as a performer to come through. That said I was pleasantly surprised by her complete re-imagining of Drake’s “One Dance.” It was totally left field and made me actually feel for that song.
Walk Off the Earth, of course, were an entirely different beast. I don’t think I have ever seen a show quite like that! I’ll admit I’m still not a HUGE fan of their original music but I would never argue against their abilities as musicians and entertainers. You know when you have THREE confetti blasts in one show that you’re in for something truly batshit insane! It would take me pages upon pages to fully describe to you how this show went but you know how KISS has insane live shows… well…Walk Off the Earth might give them a run for their money! There was confetti, Wacky Waving Inflatable Tube Guys, balloons, flashing strobes, video interludes, their famous GuitHarpUlele and even a fake assailant to be kicked by Gianni Luminati during their wonderfully silly “Taekwondo.” Extra praise must be given to their roadies, who were constantly called upon to catch the numerous instruments that the band would throw into the air. One false move and the whole thing would have literally and metaphorically come crashing down.
It also baffles me how perfectly timed everything was. Almost every song segued into another, without giving the audience a chance to catch their breath, which is especially impressive considering how much everyone was screaming. Even more impressive is how the band members, who are all multi-instrumentalists never missed a beat or hit a dull note. They switched instruments multiple times while having staging as complex as any Broadway musical. They played “Hey Ya” on boomwhackers and other classroom instruments. They all played and sang on the same GuitHarpUlele. They even broke it down for a bit and did a beautiful acoustic version of “Hold On (The Break),” which was made even more poignant by the audience holding up blue paper hearts to their phone’s flashlight in tribute to Beard Guy. Even though it’s clear Walk Off the Earth are all about as having as much fun as possible, I found it profoundly respectful and sweet of them to have left candles on their fallen comrade’s keyboard and having the crowd belt out the entirety of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in his honour.
There were times, however, when I found some of the theatrics to be a little too much. That’s always a red flag that a band’s music might not stand completely on its own. The video interludes were WAY too long and jam-packed with corny jokes and stilted acting from bandmembers even if they were met with thunderous applause. I did appreciate getting to know each of their individual personalities though. Walk Off the Earth are very much masters of their self-image and it shows from their fanbase. I haven’t seen fans so joyfully in love with a musical artist since I saw Weird Al a couple of summers ago.
If you haven’t seen these guys in concert, you NEED to because you’ll be swooning in no time! They are an unstoppable force of nature. Not even a tragedy or a freak snowstorm could hold these beacons of positivity from shining.
Written by Shawn Thicke
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Danielle Kenedy