As the great outdoor concert halls sit down this summer, here are some great Toronto shows from seasons past.
Listen ! I know we all miss concerts after being locked up for 15 months, especially those that take place outside in the summer. Toronto has every right to boast of its status as a world-class city when it comes to live music in the air.
But, as Depeche Mode says, “Enjoy the silence” – until the live events loudly return. They have been too important a part of our collective history, let alone a vital economic engine. And not to be too sentimental, but there is something magical about seeing a spectacle outside, which I honestly believe this pandemic has only gotten worse.
In the meantime, here are some city destinations that I look forward to revisiting around this time next year.
BUDWEISER SCENE: Granted, it doesn’t have Massey Hall quality acoustics and the beer is overpriced. Yet on a warm summer evening, there are few concrete supported structures in Toronto that I would rather visit than the one floating on Lake Ontario. From Bryan Adams to Wilco, with over 20 Blue Rodeo appearances in between, it’s a place the big names have passed for 25 years. There were plenty of surprises too, like Stevie Wonder’s appearance at one of Drake’s first OVO Fests. I just wouldn’t recommend swimming back into the room like a tempted metalhead for Slayer in 2018.
CNE BAND: Before the Exhibition Stadium was demolished to host big concerts in the sky for eternity, the CNE was the perfect place to get your Tiny Tom Donuts and / or Crown and Anchor fix before hosting the Who, Pink Floyd, Guns N ‘Roses and countless other rock classics. The bandshell, which has been held for 85 years on sacred carnival grounds, has in recent years hosted a hip-hop who’s who for the Toronto’s Festival of Beer (Public Enemy, Salt-N-Pepa, Maestro Fresh Wes, for n ‘to name just three) – not to mention the cavalcade of artists who rocked the main stand in its heyday, like Howard Jones (whose biggest hit in Canada was the soft as a synth “No One Is to Blame) “.
PLACE YONGE-DUNDAS: Music has stopped traffic at Canada’s busiest intersection on more than one occasion. The Red Hot Chili Peppers had a crowd coming out of the historic HMV location for a one-off promotion ahead of their incendiary performance at Woodstock 1999 as the bonfires raged. The North by Northeast Festival has taken over Yonge-Dundas Square with free shows pretty much every Father’s Day weekend since 2008. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sight of bodysurfers outside the gates of the Eaton. Center well west of the stage during Iggy and the 2010 Stooges set. The pride brightened up the place just as powerfully, thanks to Tegan and Sara, Lights and Carly Rae Jepsen.
DOWNSVIEW PARK: The former Toronto military base, now a sprawling city park, is still home to the VELD electronic dance festival – named after ‘the Veldt’, one of the bangers of the deadmau5 club – although there is a fact fun for music lovers: geek rockers Weezer have performed at Downsview Park as many times as the rave superstar. If there’s a place I’d like to see a multi-stage production like Riot Fest (with a 26-song headliner created by The Cure in 2014) or Edgefest (where attendees can roam freely without bleeding from? its and have many dining options), this is Downsview Park. There’s also the Rolling Stones’ SARS glitch that a handful of people saw (OK, make it half a million), as it nears its 20th (!) Anniversary in 2023.
· Sixteen years after SARSStock, the Rolling Stones were back away for Canada Rocks in Oro-Medonte, northeast of Barrie, in the presence of over 70,000 forts (and free). Unfortunately, the Glorious Sons, one of the top five Canadian players, did not do their superb cover of “Gimme Shelter”.
· A crowd of similar size flocked to G. Ross Lord Park on the northern outskirts of Toronto in 1992 to spot the Black Crowes, who were flying high with a number one album on the Billboard 200. It was a big surprise for Q107, who expected 15,000 to 20,000 for this concert, the 15th anniversary of the station.
Further east, Mosport Park in Bowmanville has seen several spectators hover around 100,000 between motorsport races, including the Strawberry Fields Festival (1970), Canada Jam (1978), Heatwave (1980) and Edenfest ( 1996).