Toronto, Canada - Jonna Emily Lee Nilsson is a multi-dimensional artist from Linkoping, Sweden. The artist is a singer, songwriter, producer and visual director who is also the mastermind behind the online project iamamiwhoami. The project is dedicated to the electronic music of the singer, and has gained online stardom with multiple viral videos during this unique venture.
On February 26, 2023, the artist started a multi-country tour under the moniker ionnalee. The "Be Here Soon Tour" arrived at Toronto, Canada's Opera House on April 19 and LOUDTO was there to take in this exclusive event that had been 4 years in the making. Unfortunately, the pandemic had prevented ionnalee from playing in Toronto again, after her first appearance 4 years ago.
At 7:45, the crowd was surprised at the first band's appearance. Luminous Kid, another Swedish act brought along by his fellow country woman, was a seemingly surprise act for the show this night as the singer had not been listed on the bill for the evening. Also known as Olof Grind, Luminous Kid is an artist who creates queer indie-folk music, in addition to his photography.
Accompanied by his friend Julia whom he graciously thanked for joining him on the trip to North America (Luminous Kid's first time on the continent), the duo shared great harmonies during the soft acoustic set. With a voice that was very reminiscent to me of Amerian singer/songwriter Shawn Mullins, Luminous Kid played songs from his library including his first album, of which he shared with the crowd was written in South America. Unfortunately, the quieter set allowed for the chatter at the back bar area of the venue to be quite audible. Very unfortunate for the artist, and something I personally find quite rude. Nonetheless, Luminous Kid performed the last song of his set solo, as he closed off a solid performance.
Performing next, and the artist that was in fact originally listed on the bill for the show was Canadian electronic artist Tess Roby. Originally born in Toronto, Tess Roby now resides in Montreal and is also a multi-talented artist. In addition to being a photographer, the singer's musical prowess sees her taking on her own songwriting, musicianship, producing, and art directing for her music videos.
The set starts off with the beats of electric drums, and Tess Roby's soothing vocals, that remind me of Canadian Celtic vocalist Loreena McKennitt, fill the concert hall. She later shares how happy she is to be playing this venue that she used to come to as a teenage fan. Ahead of her song "Catalyst", Tess Roby requests that the crowd be very quiet to get the complete experience from the track. And as with Luminous Kid, the noise makers at the back of the venue unfortunately continue to be a bit of a nuisance. In this case however, the singer stops the song short and says "What did I say???". It was actually a funny moment, but thankfully did the trick. With a "special guest appearance" by her brother, the band performs a wonderful collection of music, building on the opening act's setup.
A video screen casts images of water, and rivers and barren trees void of leaves as the Swedish singer appears from stage left. She steps up onto a platform in front of the video screen, as she sings the opening track "Thunder Lightning". Vocally beautiful, and almost haunting, the song contains slight tempo changes as the video continues to play, casting reflections off the singer's face. She moves gracefully on the raised platform for a very engaging opening.
The singer uses the whole stage over the first few songs, as she elegantly dances around, her seemingly heavy dress flowing behind her as she spins and twirls during her heavenly melodies.
Upon her first interaction with the fans, who are dancing, and singing along with the music, the singer shares that it's only her second appearance in Toronto. With the last visit being 4 years ago, she had plans to come again, but then the pandemic, and we all know the stop that was put on our lives. In her very soft spoken, delicate voice, she shares that they are very happy to have made it again.
By the time the accompanying band starts into the keyboard intro to "Changes", the bulky dress is gone, revealing a one-piece, much more comfortable looking body suit. It's a complete contrast to the artist's previous outfit, allowing her to move even more graciously. Change is definitely good! Fans call out "We Love You!" as the band progresses through the song.
Visually, this live event is just that. More than just the soft sounds from the band, and the vocals (that sound fantasy laden like the singer Enya, albeit of a different genre), the video back drop plays a huge part in the show. As the singer steps up onto the platform towards the back of the stage for the 80s-esque "Chasing Kites", we are treated to an almost psychedelic video, which is a mirrored image of the vocalist's movements. It's a stunning visual that ties perfectly with the electronic dance-y music, and the graceful dancing of the singer. Still, the crowd grooves and moves to the sultry sounds.
As the set progresses, towards its conclusion, the tempo picks up. The singer is dancing around as though it was her last performance and the crowd is dancing, jumping and clapping right along with the performer. There is great energy between the fans and the singer. They love her, and her performance shows the love is mutual.
ionnalee's interaction with the crowd is just as fantastic as the music and the show as she reaches out to touch hands, responds to the vocal adoration and shows a complete love for being where she is. I also find myself honored to be here, covering this show. We tend to box ourselves into one specific genre of music, when there is so much to offer outside our sounds of choice. Honestly, I would likely never have thought to attend a show such as this, but with the job comes a lot of newfound music and artists.
It's not LOUD, but it's actually quite a magical thing!
show date: April 19, 2023