The last time I saw the Watchmen was in September 2008 at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern. At that point, I guesstimate I had seen them live about 4 times – all with my friend, Jenn. Jenn and I were frequent concert-goers during our university days. Our preferred bands – the Odds, Headstones and the Watchmen. Any time any of these bands came to town, we’d splurge for a ticket to see them. So it goes with life, you graduate and lose track. But, Jenn, one of my oldest friends, would always somehow continue to be there in my life in some way. Letters, emailing, an invite to a wedding…and later, Facebook would offer a new avenue of communication. Every time we would get together after a long hiatus, it was like old times.
Back in September 2015, Jenn messaged me to let me know the Watchmen were coming to Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall in November – did I want to go? It was an emphatic YES for me. The band had subsequently cancelled a bunch of dates, including Toronto’s, and rescheduled the gig for January 30th. Can I still go? I told Jenn yes! Plans were made, and I marked off my calendar and anxiously awaited for the day to arrive.
The plan was to meet Jenn at her house in the East York neighbourhood. I would park my car at her place and we’d either walk to the Danforth where the venue was and grab a bite, or hop onto the subway. The evening promised mild temperatures, so with my walking shoes on, and my GPS pointed towards Jenn’s house, I headed off with an hour’s lead time.
Holy crap, I hate my GPS, but for once it worked in my favour! Traffic on the Don Valley Parkway was gonna make me late – it was going to be a 20 minute stop-and-go delay. Bloddy ell. For once however, my GPS did not shit the bed as it detoured me around that mess and got me to Jenn’s on time. I arrived at Jenn’s, parked the car, and after hugs and hellos, we were off to the Danforth to find somewhere to eat.
Danforth Avenue (or “the Danforth” as it is known in both the Barenaked Ladies song and in Toronto) is a part of Toronto that is known for its Greektown neighbourhood. I am very much not familiar with this part of Toronto, but I liked what I was smelling – garlic and marinated meat wafted along the neighbourhood. Restaurants and little shops peppered the scene as we headed over to a little hole-in-the-wall Jenn had been dying to try called the Detroit Eatery Diner. After a delicious meal of burgers and a side of “catch-up”, we walked down the Danforth and wait for the venue to open.
We headed into the Danforth Music Hall around 8 PM where the opening act had just taken the stage. Never having been at the Music Hall before, Jenn said there was seating up in the balcony where we could have a beer and flake out until the opening act got the hook. Sure!
I had no idea who the opening act was. But, about halfway through the set I recognized a song about “freight trains and paper planes are just like you and me”. I was a bit confused at first why I was listening to Walmart Canada’s Christmas commercial jingle, but then realized they must have written the song! Still not sure who this band was…The lead singer would front each song by giving awkward cliches like, “here’s a little ditty that goes something like this…” or “our next song is…well, listen for yourself…” or “here it is, check it out…” I couldn’t help but laugh at each tag line. Unfortunately, whoever was at the soundboard did a piss poor job: The sound was wayyy too loud, and the mics kept producing ear-piercing feedback. I honestly felt bad for those guys! Nothing can ruin a decent performance more than bad sound. Overall, they weren’t bad. It wasn’t until later that I found out the band was called East of Avenue (I goggled it). Anyway…
Before the Watchmen took to the stage, we moved down to the main floor which was basically a slanted concrete floor with a stage at the end. (I am being simplistic – it is a nice venue for a concert.) We were pretty far back initially, but had plenty of space between us and others around us. While we waited, the Hall played some Alice Cooper, Ozzy and David Bowie. We made some predictions about songs the Watchmen would play – All Uncovered, Lusitana, Laughing, Run and Hide, Stereo, Incarnate…?
The Watchmen took to the stage at 9 PM sharp, starting the set strong with Say Something. At that exact moment, it was like every 6ft 5 in dude in the venue decided that tonight they were all friends and they were going to huddle together in groups directly in front of us. It wasn’t like you could look in between the fat heads at Danny screaming into the mic either, no, it was all wall of heads. For the first few songs, we didn’t care so much, we were just so happy to be in the presence of greatness that is the Watchmen again.
About four songs in, the giants were starting to get on my nerves. I asked Jenn if she could see from her angle, and we both agreed to move on down closer to the stage. We found a half decent spot where we could actually see the whole band. But, we were about to pass out from the odour; it was like they were passing out Axe body spray at the bar and every dude in the area bathed in it. After a huge coughing fit, we moved further down, towards the stage, and further down still…until we wound up in this pocket on the right side of the stage by the emergency exit, where there was NOBODY! And our view of the band was effin deadly! Wow, no smell, no tall dudes…Just plenty of room to rock on and watch the Watchmen.
And, I have to say, no kidding – the guys in the band look the same as they did when we went to see them 20 years ago! They even dress the same! They certainly sound the same…Danny’s voice was like butter, and the band’s performances were tight. These guys are professionals! Meanwhile, you look out at the crowd and most of it was predominantly a sausagefest of 40-something balding dudes. I couldn’t help but think how a lot of these guys are now career men with jobs, houses, kids…a far departure from what was happening in university – as their skinny, head full of hair selves attempted “school” while chasing the next kegger…
The set-list recognized all of the Watchmen’s albums. No Lusitana, but Run and Hide, Stereo, and All Uncovered were part of the rotation this night. There was also a surprise performance of Tom Petty’s The Waiting which was pretty good. I sang myself hoarse by the end of the evening.
- Say Something
- Boneyard Tree
- I’m Still Gone
- Anything But That
- I’m Waiting
- Brighter Hell
- Middle East
- Run and Hide
- Must To Be Free
- All Uncovered
- Absolutely Anytime
17. Any Day Now
18. The Waiting (Tom Petty cover)
Another excellent evening by the Watchmen. Here’s hoping they return to Toronto again soon. You can bet I’ll be going!