Pheeeeew what a day.
Sleep was sweet after returning from Buffalo late last night. It was the last night to be spent at home before the tour proceeds east to Toronto, then Montréal and then USA’s east coast—and so I savoured any minute of breathing at my own home.
Fresh clothes from the laundry… and somehow, whatever I packed took less space than before. Placed my MK Signature Stratocaster back to its case (see you in 12 days, darling), and by 11:30am we were in the car: Jeroen driving, I’m savouring a cup of freshly‐brewed macchiato, product of my beloved espresso machine.
Was great to be at home… sad to leave.
I had an important meeting to attend at 1:00pm; usually at around noon time, traffic coming into Toronto is a no‐brainer. An hour and a half should be enough time to get to where I was going at the downtown area of Toronto. However, for whatever reason, everything went wrong. Starting with construction right outside Waterloo, and ending with my stupid GPS apparently not counting traffic lights as hurdles, and taking us through the city instead of using the Gardiner. I knew something was wrong, but trusted the GPS. Mental note to self: don’t trust a GPS if you already know your way.
Half hour late, oops—well, what can you do. Jonathan, my good friend who recently moved to Toronto, hopped into the car with Jeroen and guided to his apartment, while I went to the meeting. An hour later, the three of us met at a nice cafe right downtown, a bit south of Yonge & Bloor. Everybody caught up with everybody, and I made a pretty good job “priming” Jonathan for the concert.
Jonathan has very little Knopfler experience—we went together to the Toronto show during the Kill to Get Crimson tour two years ago, and I vividly remember him being awe‐struck after it. He’s been waiting for tonight’s concert for almost two years; as our “guest”, we (Jeroen and I) jointly decided to give Jonathan the privilege of choosing the best seat of the three that we got.
We had some time to kill so we went back to Jonathan’s apartment, conveniently located right at Yonge & Wellesley—footsteps from the subway, right downtown—perfect location with view over Yonge street, where most of the action takes place. Well‐chosen apartment; should be great to crash there for the night.
The time that has to be killed was spent unwinding, until the time came for the pre‐show dinner. On our way to Massey Hall—about 10 minutes walk from Jonathan’s apartment—we noticed a place called The Horonero, which claims to make good pizza. Being a pizza buff, eager to find a pizza in North America that is better than Kingston’s Wooden Heads (in which we’ll visit tomorrow, on the way to Montréal), I expressed my inclination to give it a shot.
Well, yeah, it was a good pizza. I’ll even take the extra step and say that it’s a very good pizza; but no, it doesn’t quite make it to the first place. Anyway, if you’re in the neighbourhood, go there.
Paid and left; concert time is approaching. As in the last tour, I was very excited for the Toronto show. There may be more impressive venues than Massey Hall, bigger cities than Toronto… but there’s something about watching a concert so close to home, that makes it a different experience altogether.
Five minutes later and we arrived at Massey Hall, just south of the Dundas Square (dubbed “Toronto’s Times Square”).
That was my first time in Massey Hall (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massey_Hall). The last time Knopfler played here was in 2001, during the Sailing to Philadelphia tour; it was just when I started listening to Knopfler’s music, and it was before I even moved to Canada. So far in Toronto, I have seen concerts at the Molson Amphitheatre only.
Massie Hall is a pretty respectable venue in Toronto, seating ~ 2,800 people. Not the most brilliant interior design.
Grabbed our tickets; not such bad seats. Front row, with Jonathan’s seat—the best of the three—being three seats left of the centre.
Pieta Brown and Bo Ramsey went on stage and gave a beautiful performance; I especially liked the mellower‐than‐usual performance of The Other Way Around. It was the first time in a while that I’m able to catch the entire opening act, simply because one of the projects I was working on has been completed. Pieta then announced that she’ll be signing CD’s at the merchandise stand, which prompted dozens of individuals to line up there. I decided to wait for another concert to buy the CD; I dislike waiting.
Back at the hall and we were all counting the minutes to the show; and at 8:50pm, it started.
In a nutshell: this has been the most outstanding concert in the tour so far, which sort‐of sucks because I find it hard to believe that any of the coming 50+ concerts could top it (having said that, I was surprised before).
Mark, still seated due to his slight injury in his left leg, again apologized to the crowd for “not doing the somersaults he’s usually doing”.
Some concerts have a particular element in them that makes or breaks the show. For example, in St. Louis, it was the crowd. In Toronto’s concert, though, it was about Mark himself, hence the upcoming detailed elaboration about the individual—bear with me please.
No doubt, Mark was in a very good and joyful mood. Even though the finger of death was sent towards two individuals right at the first song, he smiled through it and went on with full force, frequently danced while seated, smiled at the crowd and having a really great time.
At one point, Mark mentioned that there are benefits for playing while seated; if it’s of any help, I have to say that I agree. As well as he plays standing, things go even better when he’s seated and feeling comfortable.
Having seen this band over 50 times already, I can’t remember the band in general, and Mark in particular, being so much into the music as they were last night. Look at this picture, taken during the outro solo of Sultans of Swing. You can only imagine what the solo sounded like, with Mark holding the Fender so close to his chest, literally using every ounce of concentration he could, to deliver a stunning performance.
Everything in his behaviour, body language etc, revealed a perfectly calm and joyful individual. Being seated, he was also quite relaxed and gave the audience the feeling that he feels like he’s at home. Well, I guess Canada has this “thing”, making people feel good (this is particularly true in some areas of British Columbia, however for different reasons altogether… think green leaf. No, I have never tried).
I was a bit surprised though of the crowd not cheering too loudly for their city during Speedway at Nazareth. At previous tours that I have been to, which took place at the Molson Amphitheatre, the crowd used to go bananas once Ontario and Toronto were mentioned; I suspect that the venue style (closed hall) had something to do with it.
My favourite part of all concerts so far is the show’s epilogue, Piper to the End. That also happens to be one of Jonathan’s favourite songs and we were all so into it that, really, nobody wanted it to end. Perfect performance of this brilliant hymn, with Mark yielding to the rest of the band during the outro. Stunning.
Quoting Jonathan, who rarely raves or gets too excited over things: “I don’t know if it’s because it had been two years, but this concert is even better than the previous one”, followed by “This is the best concert I have ever been to. Unbelievable.”
Completely awe‐struck after the concert was over, we wandered through the streets of downtown Toronto, trying to compute the musical extravaganza we had just experienced. And what’s a better way to end the day than some desserts. We stepped into a small restaurant serving Belgian waffles of all sorts, and ended this perfect day with some good calories in the form of fresh waffles topped with goodies such as strawberries and chocolate.
A short walk to Jonathan’s apartment, some more chatter and we all went to sleep at around 1:30am.
Woke up today (Friday) morning early, as we had to leave to Montréal. Long breakfast in downtown, then we bid Jonathan goodbye and went on our way. Was great seeing him, thanks Jonathan for having us over; and get your frikkin’ BlackBerry already; you don’t need an i‐Fail.