Here’s a post that does double duty, in that it is about one of Toronto’s most interesting historic buildings, and the concert Meghan and I recently saw there. The building is Massey Hall and the show was Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins, with opening performer The Weather Station.
My going to this show was a lucky turn of events, as I got to go after the original ticket holder, Meghan’s childhood friend, a person with whom she shared a major love for Jenny Lewis, couldn’t make the show. While I wasn’t familiar with the music, I knew it would be really good though because, one, I trust Meghan’s taste in music and this was one of her all time favourites, and two, I have the final album by Rilo Kiley, the band that Jenny Lewis was in before they broke up and she embarked on a solo career.
Before elaborating on the concert, here’s a bit about the building : Opening 122 years ago in 1894, Massey Hall is one of, if not the oldest concert venue in Toronto that still operates as such. It was financed by businessman and philanthropist Hart Massey, who generously wanted to provide the burgeoning city with a place to enjoy choral music that wasn’t tied to a particular church or religion.
Having been here in the city for all of our lives, it’s probably safe to say that anyone who grew up in and around Toronto has been there. Personally, I’ve seen many shows there, however hadn’t been in a while so was glad to get a chance to pass through those iconic red doors again.
The place is a bit of a time capsule as it never seems to change, right down to the original seats that slide out if you lean back, to the pleasant dusty smell of the place, to the sound that surrounds you when not overpowered by the music … the constant creaking of the wooden beams and floors as people shift in their seats. It sounds like what I imagine an old wooden ship would sound like when out at sea.
I’m glad I got to see it now because it is currently at the very beginning phase of a major renovation that will take 7 years to complete at the cost of $136 million dollars. If I understand correctly, part of that cost is being borne by a condo developer who is building a 60 story building adjacent to the old hall and connected to some other historic buildings on Yonge Street. The new tower will be called The Massey Tower.
The renovation will include many improvements to Massey Hall including a rear loading dock … for the past 122 years all gear and equipment has had to be carried through the front doors along an aisle and up the stairs onto the stage. There will be a period of 1 1/2 to 2 years during the reno that the hall will be completely closed down. Here’s a good 2 1/2 minute video that discusses the history of the place and the changes in store.
With all that going on, it is important to know that there are no plans to change the historic character of the place. To quote this article in The Toronto Star, the goal “is to do some sprucing up without sanding away the antique beauty of the place. ‘Change nothing but improve everything’ is the project’s motto.”
↑ Heading up to the first balcony ↑
↑ The bar lounge on the second floor ↑
Into the theatre …
About the show :
The opening act was a Toronto musician Tamara Lindeman and her act The Weather Station. One of the reasons people love Massey Hall so much are the acoustics — the shape of the ceiling has a way of delivering a warm sound, and this feature was put to good advantage by this singer / songwriter. Her performance was so very beautiful.
The Jenny Lewis show was the tenth anniversary celebratory tour for an album recorded by Jenny Lewis along with with identical twin sisters The Watson Twins in 2006, called “Rabbit Fur Coat”. It makes sense that The Watson Twins are doing this anniversary tour with her.
↑ The backdrop image is of the same hallway in which they took the photo for the album cover, seen here. ↑
Also, there were four very talented musicians including one of the best guitar players I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing play live, named Megan McCormick. This lady has serious skills.
↑ Jenny Lewis is 5’1″ so she had this box on stage with her to stand on during some parts ↑
Even not knowing the songs, I really enjoyed the wonderful show, so I can only imagine how it must have been for Meghan and everyone else there who had loved the album back when it was released. It seemed that most of the audience were in that camp, as there was plenty of singing along, and some ready assistance when she accidentally mixed up the lyrics from one song with the melody of another.
The goal of these seven performers was, no doubt, to show the audience a very fun time. There were costume changes and a change of the stage-set changes and lots of coordinated dance steps. There was even an intermission during which we could get a drink. Speaking of which, I’m not sure if the bars and the ability to bring drinks to our seats is a new thing to Massey Hall or if I just hadn’t noticed it before. Regardless, it was an enjoyable added benefit!
Asking Meghan how she felt afterwards made me so happy that I could be there with my friend for what was clearly a very moving experience. Not to embarrass her but she said there was even a tear or two shed during the poignant solo of the song and title track “Rabbit Fur Coat”.
It was drizzling lightly when we exited the hall, but even though we both had umbrellas we decided not to put them up because it was sweltering out and the rain cooled us off.
We walked over to Yonge Street and turned south, passing the place where that new 60 story condo tower will be, just behind and connected to these heritage buildings …
We continued walking westward on Queen Street West, past the Toronto sign at city hall …
And further, stopping for a nightcap and a snack at Tequilla Bookworm. I’d never been there and now wonder why. It’s a great place. Next time I go I’ll pull out my camera to show you.
Thank you for checking out my post.