Toronto, Ontario - There aren't many venues within, and around this great city that I haven't stepped foot inside. Oddly enough, one of the venues making this list for me is History. Despite the live music venue only having opened its doors in November 2021, I feel ashamed to have never stood within its walls.
Contrary to some belief, the venue is owned by Live Nation, and not Toronto's Drake, although the world famous rap sensation did collaborate with the live music promotor during the building's design. And I'll tell you what, this place is easily one of the best venues in the city. As soon as I stepped into the open, standing room only venue (well, there is a balcony with some tables), I was blown away by the size (both of the venue itself and the massive stage), the lighting, the vibe, everything. It seemed too perfect. I asked a fellow photog if the sound was on par with the visual, and he assured me it was.
On September 14, 2023, glam metal band Steel Panther was in town, and their live venue this time around was History. But it wasn't the headliner that I was here to cover on this night. It was the opening act, a local band called BRKN LOVE that publicist Freeman Promotions reached out to us to see if we would be able to cover the band's Toronto show. It was a no brainer to accept, and quite frankly, the gig was already on our radar.
As I hung outside with security at the back entrance ahead of the doors opening, glam rocker dudes, in their brightly coloured spandex, streamed by. Excited for the headliner's, I wondered if many knew of the opening act. Whether they had or not, I made an early assumption that they were going to be jacked once BRKN LOVE got under way. Another cool thing about being back here was that members of both bands were walking around, and the boys from Steel Panther headed out to grab one of the best burgers currently in the city from The Burger's Priest. When they came back with the bag of food in their hands, the smiles on their faces were very telling.
And Now, BRKN LOVE
Once we were escorted by Jane from security into the venue, it wasn't long before the band hit the stage, to a roar from the crowd. Lead singer Justin Benlolo stood at the front of the stage, hand raised high in salute, as if to ask the crowd "Are you guys fucking ready????" And the band burst into their set. And yes, the sound in this venue was in fact amazing, topping off the amazing experience thus far. Great venue, great lighting, great sound, and now a great local band ready to kick some ass. But it was literally 30 seconds in. If it was to get better, then this would go down as one of my favourite shows this year.
Justin Benlolo - voice/guitar
Kyle Duke - guitar
Nick Katz - bass
Russell Holzman - drums
From the drop of the opening note, guitarist Kyle Duke and bassist Nick Katz were on fire. They were going hard off the hop, bringing such amazing energy that it was going to be impossible for the crowd not to get engaged. The band plowed through their first 3 tracks, and at the end of the 3rd song "Complicated", a guitar solo. The crowd went crazy with a raucous roar, setting the stage for what we now knew would be an amazing set. At this point, Benlolo shares that the band did an interview earlier in the day and that he had drank a lot of beer. And say what you will, this was rock and roll!!!
Once the photos were complete, I headed back to find a spot to take in the rest of the show. I ended up towards the back of the venue by a short flight of steps at which point a fan with a cane slowly made his way down the steps. A friend who was accompanying him pretended to kick the feet from under him and he looked at me and laughed. I returned the gesture. Oh, the love between friends! All in good fun for sure! Also saw Toronto metal reporter Drew Masters who is at pretty much every show I see. The guy is a legend in the Toronto metal scene, and it's always nice to see him.
Benlolo does an amazing job getting the crowd riled up as he stands front stage and gives a hand gesture, telling the fans to get crazy, and they do! "Cheers! Come on, raise one up Toronto. To Rock and Fucking Roll!!! Come check us out at the merch table and say 'Hi'. A lot of crazy shot goes on there". The band then transitions into their 5th track "Flies in the Honey"
BRKN LOVE has amazing stage presence. It's a critical element for any musician to add to their repertoire. Really, this is a show, and needs to dig deeper beyond just the music. Otherwise, you may as well just stay home and stream the music. There are certainly a lot of bands that just don't do a great job in this area, but not these guys. The energy was unmatched, and the band was really great. The band also gets us back to the roots of rock and roll with guitar solos from Benlolo followed immediately by Duke. It's honestly a lost art with most newer musicians and bands in the hard rock/metal genre.
To close off the band's set, guitarist Kyle Duke sings a fantastic cover of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs", to more roars from the crowd, and finally, the band's hit track "Shot Down", to shut her down.
There is a ton of great bands from this great city. But with all due respect to all of them, BRKN LOVE put on a show in their support for Steel Panther. Music fans in this city, especially hard rock fans need to put these guys on their radars, and join the spectacle for their next gig. This is great shit, and not to be missed. And yes, it did in fact check the box as one of the greatest shows so far in Toronto in 2023.
CONCERT PHOTO GALLERY
Show Date: September 14, 2023