Pennywise @ The Phoenix, Toronto, Canada

Live Reviews | By on Oct 20th, 2006

Opening Bands: Circle Jerks, Ignite
Date: October 12th 2006
Venue: The Phoenix, Toronto, Canada

Ahhh the sweet allure of a Pennywise concert. That is what I was surrounded by as I made the two- hour tour down the 401 heading into Toronto. The anticipation for this show was palpable as the mighty Pennywise would be playing alongside punk legends the Circle Jerks and one of my current favourites in Ignite. Ignite has put forth one of the best albums of this year and I was pumped to see them perform live for the first time.

The Phoenix in Toronto is a small venue that houses approximately 1000 patrons. It’s about as close to perfect as you can get to witness a live act. From my vantage point, I was fifty feet away from centre stage, fifteen feet from the bar and twenty feet in the air at a lounge table. My position was perfect for kicking back, enjoying a few cocktails and taking in the atmosphere. Another feature of my elevated perch was the view of the mosh pit. It’s been a few years since I’ve been an active participant but from my seat I could watch the madness ensue.

The first act to take the stage were the local Brown Brigade.’ BB is a five-piece act from the Toronto area that plays a literal hodge-podge of music. I was a little disgruntled by their stage presence as they were on stage tweaking guitars and amps for a good twenty minutes before they started. This should have been done prior to them stepping up. They finally began with a blistering set of originals and covers. They were talented enough and did what they do adequately but they were out of their league in this lineup and would have been better served playing their own set on a Saturday night. To end their set, BB brought out a young man who had apparently flown from Japan to play a song with these guys. They ripped off two Iron Maiden classics that left me reeling with the scent of mozzarella, marble and various other cheeses. They were subsequently yanked off stage before they could play their final song as they had overshot their time.

Next up; Ignite. I’ll save this portion of the review until the end.

The Circle Jerks took stage in the third position and blitzed the crowd with on onslaught of their classics. The raucous crowd was treated to founding member and Bad Religion guitarist Greg Hetson playing with the band. If one were to take into account all of the punk history on-stage here they would be treated to a who’s-who of influential pioneers. Keith Morris who also founded Black flag was spot-on and his between song banter was extremely entertaining. The stage antics of bassist Zander Schloss were top notch. I felt like I should be screaming Frank the Tank, Frank the Tank.’ Zander looks identical to Will Ferrell from Old School. For close to an hour the band played songs from the years gone by and a few covers. It was a real treat to see most of the original band playing together.

Finally, the most anticipated band of the evening took the helm; Pennywise. *Warning* As an avid and bloodthirsty Pennywise fan, it humbles and shames me for what I am about to say. Pennywise were far from memorable. I wanted to see something new and fresh from the perennial powerhouse but it was not to be the case. They seemed flat and tired to be perfectly honest. Perhaps I’m being too harsh as I’ve come to expect so much from this band and the fact that they didn’t deliver is not meant to convey that they were weak but rather uninspiring in comparison to their previous efforts. Jim’s vocals were great and the musicianship was also performed to perfection. For a first time Pennywise concert-goer this would be enough to come away satisfied. As someone who has seen this band numerous times it seemed their set was obligatory and uninventive.

Now with that being said, perhaps my feelings of destitution should not be attributed to Pennywise’s show. From a different perspective, maybe the lacklusterness of Pennywise can be more aptly attributed to how mofo good Ignite was. Although second in the lineup, Ignite simply stole the show. And I do mean, stole the show. From start to finish these guys kicked the living shit out of everyone in attendance. Ladies and gentlemen, Ignite is the real deal. They should be next in line to take over as the next big-name punk phenomenon. Ignite ripped through nearly the whole album “Our Darkest Days.” It was played at break-neck speed and was utterly relentless. Ignite left no time for the audience to breathe but rather put forth a constant assault that was as close to an orgasm I could have with my pants on. Singer Zoli Teglas was a dead ringer for the studio release and the band followed suit. They also threw in a couple of their older tracks and the U2 cover Sunday Bloody Sunday.’ Ignite played an emotional set that was rounded out by some stirring story telling by Zoli.

I left the Phoenix feeling satiated. I can only hope that Pennywise can recover their zest for performing. Maybe it was just a bad night. We’ll see next time. But one thing is for certain; Ignite needs to come to Toronto again for a show of their own. If you get the chance to see them, don’t walk…run. These guys are good. Scary good.

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