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GOWAN DAZZLES AT MASSEY HALL IN TORONTO




Lawrence Gowan performing live at Massey Hall in Toronto, Canada. Photo Credit: Jay Broderick

Toronto, Canada - In 1985, I turned 14 years old. In September of that year, I headed into grade 8... a senior, at our Junior High School in Scarborough, Ontario. That time of life was a real coming of age for me, and I kind of felt on top of the world, despite my very quiet nature. I started listening to a ton of music, and my personality started to take shape. The music I got into at that time was your standard "Popular" fair, which everybody was listening to.


While I was growing into my self, there was a musical artist who was growing into his career. It was that year that this Canadian artist started to really gain traction, at least here in this country. During one of our special assemblies that year, a special guest was on hand. This guest was a musician, and happened to play guitar for this singer who was becoming a common household name. That guitarist was Bob McAlpine, and he was a band member for the Canadian singer Lawrence Gowan, better known at that time as just Gowan.


Lawrence Gowan is a Canadian singer/keyboardist (born in Scotland) and raised in my very own suburb of Scarborough, Ontario. He released his first album in 1982, the self titled Gowan, but things did not go quite smashingly with this debut. It wasn't until Gowan's 2nd release, 1985's Strange Animal, that things really took off for the singer. Produced by English Producer David Tickle, with Peter Gabriel band members David Rhodes, Tony Levin and Jerry Marotta providing music tracks for the recording, Strange Animal peaked at number 5 in the Canadian charts and Gowan was famous!


In 1999, Lawrence Gowan joined the classic rock band Styx, for which he has been a band member ever since (check out the last Styx show review here in Toronto), but on November 30, 2023, Gowan made a stop at Toronto's Massey Hall, on his current solo tour. And of course, LoudTO was there to take it all in!

Gowan performing live at Massey Hall in Toronto. Photo Credit: Jay Broderick

Massey Hall is located in the Allied Music Centre Building at 178 Victoria Street in Toronto. The building also contains a second live music venue called TD Music Hall. I had no idea this new locale on the 4th floor even existed... at least until I arrived at the Gowan show on November 30, 2023. After chatting with security for a bit, and seeing a number of concert goers asking for the "Hunter Brothers" show, my world was expanded a little more! Without doubt, it's a super chill venue, and the team here is simply amazing!


With no opening act on the bill for Gowan, this was the second consecutive show I've seen that went this route, having seen the Cowboy Junkies the week prior. As such, things got under way immediately once 8:00 struck. With the house lights down, we get the very popular introduction to Gowan's "Strange Animal", and appearing before us, standing on his keyboard, clad in his Scottish garb, the man himself! The lighting is amazing, and as a photographer, I'm beyond ecstatic. As a fan, I'm in awe. With a very simple stage setup that screams plain old rock and roll, the show is under way, and it's instantly ear and eye catching.


The band plays steadily through their first 4 tracks at which point, Lawrence Gowan starts in with the comedy. "That's 4 songs there from the 80s. What a fabulour decade! Too bad the 90s had to come along. And the worst thing is that it killed the mullet!", a hilarious reference to Gowan's hairstyle in the decade that made him most famous. It bring tons of laughs and it wouldn't be the last time on this night.

Gowan performing live in Toronto. Photo Credit: Jay Broderick

"Soul's Road" is the band's 5th track of the evening. It's the lead track from the 1993 album ...But You Can Call Me Larry. One thing is clear thus far, and that's that Gowan has a great voice! The track ends with a massive applause from the crowd with Gowan commenting "So you like the 90s too!" With that, the next track would also come from the same 1993 release. Gowan reminisces about celebrating the Great Canadian musician Rockin' Ronnie Hawkins' 60th birthday on that very stage, with the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Levon Helm and even new comer, the amazing Jeff Healey. He then dedicates "When There's Time (For Love)" to Hawkin's and all the other greats who have moved on.


With Gowan's presence on stage being second to none, the rest of the band is also giving a performance well worthy of a mention. The aforementioned Bob McAlpine, and bassist Terry Gowan (Lawrence's brother) are frequently hanging out together on stage, coming close with each other and the singer/keyboardist. With some horsing around, the fun emanating from the stage is clearly visible, and it emits a contagion that has affected the crowd from the get-go.


A few tracks later, after "Moonchild's Psychedelic Holiday", the band leaves Gowan to tackle a couple piano solo pieces. Covering the Styx song "Key Dive", the track showcases his talents on the keys. With his back to the crowd, almost in his own world, the sounds emanating from his blistering fingers is phenomenal. It brings a very well deserved standing ovation from the fans. He then performs one of his favourite songs that he explains has a ton of personal meaning to him. The track is "Dedication". The stage is cast in a hazy, blue and purple light. It's visually stunning, and audibly wonderful. The man is a true talent, with no room for debate.


Lawrence Gowan performs live at Massey Hall in Toronto, Ontario. Photo Credit: Jay Broderick

With the band back to join the frontman, they crank up "Dancing on my Own Ground" and the track brings the crowd to their feet, dancing at their seats and they even spill out into the aisles. This is what it's all about. The band is happy with the response and Gowan proclaims "What do you think boys? I think they're ready. Let's play some from Strange Animal!!" The continued party brings Gowan out into the crowd, even taking a moment to dance with a fan.


As the show winds down, the crowd goes crazy with the introduction to "Criminal Mind". Again, the track is visually stunning with the light show before our eyes, than form a makeshift jail cell around the singer. It sounds absolutely amazing. Gowan climbs up onto his keyboard again and the crowd provides another standing ovation. Gowan quickly chirps "Let's keep this party going. Come on!!!" and the band rolls into the track "Strange Animal". The whole venue is on their feet, dancing, clapping and singing. With the seemingly final track's conclusion, the crowd remains on their feet with a raucous cheer as the band leaves the stage. The cheering is non-stop, and the band appears before us again. "Could this possible have been better? I don't think so. By the sounds of it, we may have to do this again!" Gowan says as he addresses the fans loyalty. He takes this time to introduce the rest of the band, including keyboardist Ryan Bovaird and his own son, on the drums, Dylan Gowan. And they close it out with "Moonlight Desires".


This was one of the most pleasurable experiences I've had as a concert photographer. Gowan is a complete showman! What a great performer!! And the little talked about staff at Massey Hall. They are simply second to none here. It brings the whole evening to a completely new level.


OMINOUS SPIRITOUS!!!



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show date: November 30, 2023







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