Words by: Scott Cruickshank
Photography by: Jeanette LeBlanc
The air was crisp and cold the evening of Tuesday October 18th downtown Toronto. Despite the recent temperature drop, the front of the Pheonix Concert Theatre at 410 Sherbourne Street was still bustling with eager concert goers, and to my own perception, all of them had the same feeling, that something big was about to happen inside at this sold out Toronto stop of Sum 41’s “Don’t Call it a Sum-Back Tour” with support from Senses Fail and As It Is.
First on the bill was British pop punkers As It Is. These guys definitely have a good mix of old school emo roots and new age hook and melody that got the room moving and our blood pumping. A relatively high energy performance and tight playing lended to a great set of reminiscing about ex girlfriends while simultaneously wanting to jump up and down and stage dive. Sounds like a solid pop punk set,right? Check out their latest single “Okay.”, and stay tuned for their upcoming album release of the same name expected to be live January 20th, 2017.
To a packed house Senses Fail took to the stage. The band, now consisting of only one founding member “Buddy” Nielson, banged out several classic crowd pleasers such as “You’re Cute When You Scream”, “Lady In a Blue Dress”, “Calling All Cars”, “Buried A Lie”, and “Rum Is For Drinking, Not Burning”. Buddy has stopped wearing his matching Hawaiian shirt and short ensembles that we witnessed at the past Toronto Warped Tour stop, but he certainly kept up his impressive stage antics; cartwheeling across the stage while screaming and singing, and throwing his mic around like a pro. Seeing Senses Fail in Toronto again was a real nostalgic treat for all emo-punk fans present, as well as a perfect yet obscure addition to the bill.
As a precursor to this final section of the concert review I’d like to share some shameless background information about myself. Growing up as a 90’s kid in South Ajax one could not be unaware of the hometown punk act that blew up out of our own soil like dynamite. I wasn’t old enough at the time to be involved in going to (then named Kaspir)’s local shows pre-record deal signing, but I had an older sibling who was so I automatically listened through him, and from that first EP Half Hour Of Power, we were all hooked. Fun fact; this writer used to live across the street from Lead Guitar player Dave “Brownsound” Baksh, hence my deep rooted affliction with Dave’s guitar parts/playing in general. The man just has a way with the instrument that rips and tears. To grow up with these albums (actual cds. Wow.) on repeat, it is really killer to see them do so well and to see the guys come full circle with the return of guitarist Dave. Moving On!
The stage was torn apart and behind it all unveiled an impressive stage setup for the hometown boys, headliners Sum 41. Large rotating lights revealed a back-line of brilliantly white Marshall guitar cabinets painted with blood dripping from them, the new 13 Voices album art displayed behind the double-kick drum kit of Frank Zummo. Through the PA blared Sum’s signature “Introduction to Destruction” playlist of Metallica, Beastie Boys and other amped up riffage of their golden days. Despite the sonic theatrics, audience members didn’t have long to prepare for the obliteration that is “The Hell Song“. While the band were tearing into strings and drums the original banner dropped to reveal an original “All Killer, No Filler” Sum 41 logo to an eruption from the crowd. It was good to see singer Deryck Whibley appearing very much live and well after recent health concerns, and man did he and the rest of the boys bring it. Not known to just play songs straight off their records, they did their usual spontaneous interwoven songs, fusing classics to seamless electrifying sonic pieces. Mixing in newer songs with better known hits kept the energy up and vibe positive as always. Busting out new songs such as “War” and “Fake My Own Death“, but absolutely crushing with classics like “Grab The Devil By The Horns And Fuck Him In The Ass“, “Motiovation“, “Over My Head (Better Off Dead)“, “Still Waiting” and “In Too Deep“.
Deryck, being an excellent frontman, called on lead guitarist Dave “Brownsound” Baksh to bring the metal, which he did, leading into a section of guitar solos throughout band members which eventually resulted in Deryck calling upon audience members to come up on stage and take a shot at a guitar solo, and one lucky fan did, seemingly out soloing Whibley. Moving through the set drummer Frank Zummo also had a shot at his own solo, mixing in some hip hop backing tracks and amping up the crowd. After all the high octane energy and hits, the boys were seemingly done, until returning to encore with Pieces, 13 Voices, and Fat Lip. Sum 41 offered up a phenomenal Tuesday night performance for everyone at the Pheonix, and I think I am speaking for everyone present in saying we are so happy Dave is back. Make sure to check out Sum 41’s latest album 13 Voices! Overall, a killer lineup and a crushing dare I say Sum-back brought down the house at The Pheonix Concert Theater for the 2016 Don’t Call It A Sum-Back Tour.