Big Bands, Tiny Venues

A RECENT HISTORY OF BIG BANDS PLAYING SURPRISE SHOWS AT SMALL VENUES

Sometimes dreams come true. Every once in a while, arena acts do the unthinkable and trade in the huge crowds for more intimate digs. In descending order of scale, here’s a recent history of huge acts performing increasingly unlikely tiny gigs in our city.
 

PRINCE @ THE SONY CENTRE | MAY 19, 2015

Six months after disappointing fans that felt certain he was announcing two secret gigs at (the comparably smaller) Massey Hall after his band 3rdeyegirl posted a suggestive message to twitter, Ticketmaster and news media picked up on it as fact, and it ultimately was revealed as myth, Prince announced two surprise performances at the Sony Centre as part of his Hit & Run tour just a day ahead of time, selling out both. At 3,191 seats, the Sony Centre is hardly a small venue, but it’s a mere fraction of the 19,800-seat Air Canada Centre the Purple One usually graces when he rolls through town.

Prince

(Photo by penner via Flickr)

 

THE ROLLING STONES @ PHOENIX CONCERT THEATRE | AUG. 10, 2005

The Rolling Stones have built a history of playing surprise gigs in small Toronto venues like the El Mocambo, the Horseshoe, and Palais Royale, and in 2005, they added the Phoenix Concert Theatre to that list when they played the Cabbagetown warehouse as a warm up gig before embarking on tour promoting their then upcoming record, A Bigger Bang. Sure, it’s a far cry from the El Mo but this event marks the smallest Stones gig Toronto’s seen in the past decade.


 

MUMFORD AND SONS @ LEE’S PALACE – TORONTO, ONTARIO | APRIL 3, 2015

Back in April, 600 fans waited in the rain and checked their phones on the way into Lee’s Palace to witness a rare club performance from a band that has been headlining major music festivals for years, and a sneak peak at new songs from their May-released Wilder Mind album.

Mumford-and-Sons

(Photo by Andrea Sartorati via Flickr)

 

PIXIES @ THE HORSESHOE TAVERN – TORONTO, ONTARIO | JUNE 7, 2015

When Led Zeppelin’s legendary voice woke up sounding like a frog and had to postpone a headlining performance at the Molson Amphitheatre to the fall, his support act had to improvise. So Toronto got a sweaty Pixies gig at the Horseshoe.


 

FEIST @ GLENN GOULD STUDIO – TORONTO, ONTARIO | OCT. 8, 2011

After playing the Air Canada Centre for her preceding homecoming, Leslie Feist opted for the intimate and elegant Glenn Gould Studio when she delivered her critically celebrated Metals to Toronto.

Fiest

(Photo by Jason Persse via Flickr)

 

THE TRAGICALLY HIP @ SUPERMARKET | SEPT. 30, OCT. 1 & 2, 2012

Talk about Pedestrian Sundays. Canadian rock veterans the Tragically Hip surprised Toronto on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012 by tweeting about a surprise appearance that would take place at Kensington Market bar/restaurant Supermarket just an hour and a half later. It didn’t take long for news to circulate, and when the magic hour struck, the band mounted a makeshift stage to play a three-song set to an approximately 300-person crowd. They followed suit with an additional three-song set every hour throughout the afternoon and early evening (usually, two new songs and one classic), hawking physical copies of their soon to be commercially released Now for Plan A record in between. They followed the appearance with a residency/pop-up shop that returned to that formula every day until Oct. 3, culminating in a special hour-long set on the album’s proper release date that was also live streamed on their website.