Over 160 different languages are spoken in Toronto. In my mind it is one of the most diverse cities we visit regularly. We always stay in a ‘hip’ little district known as Yorkville, once a village, then a residential suburb and now, since 1883, annexed to Toronto. In the 60’s it was a bohemian cultural centre, a breeding ground for Canada’s most notable musical talents. Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot and Neil Young all learned their ropes here.
Never having visited the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, previously we’ve played at Massey Hall or the outdoor arena on the waterfront, I was intrigued to know more. When we arrived at the venue and walked on stage for sound check, it seemed like a mirror image of yesterday’s show in Montreal. Very similar theatre, with an equally similar, lovely sound. Of course our interpretation of the sound is quite different to that of the actual hall, audience perspective. We can only base our opinions of the sound of the stage and how it affects our in ear monitors. Short and sweet was the sound check and once we’d made ourselves comfortable in the dressing rooms (which was actually physically impossible due to enormously uncomfortable seating) we headed with much trepidation to catering.
Tightly tucked away in the corner of the basement level, catering proved to be nothing other than ‘fantastic’. The 2 ladies who prepared the spread clearly knew what they were doing. The fresh, home-made curry was too good to miss. I devoured a plate full, disregarding thoughts of staying light for the show, dodged the dessert table and headed back to the dressing rooms. The most comfortable way to enjoy our short term accommodation was to do what John McCusker did and lie down on the floor.
At 7:45, Paul and Pete (management) came in to the dressing room to politely suggest a 10 minute hold, as people are ‘slow coming in’. These days, this is often exacerbated by security checks and bag searches. It can’t be helped.
Rudy Pensa, has been a good friend of Mark and the band for a long time and is renowned for his wonderful guitar stores in Manhattan (Jack Sonni was an employee there before joining DS in 1985). Last week he gifted Mark a particularly beautiful slimline Telecaster. It has already been put into service, it is used in the set on 2 songs. It’s a stunning guitar in every respect.
It was 8:10pm before we took to the stage, some of us hid an extra layer as the venue air conditioning did its icy best all evening. It wasn’t exactly warm up there but we’ve had far worse. David Letterman’s late night show was notorious for being absolutely freezing, not much above zero, in order to keep the guests, the audience and himself alert. It worked a treat but the Paul Shaffer (another Canadian) and the musicians needed thermals… and counselling.
Of course, once we got going, ambient temperature was the last thing on our minds as we made our way through this remarkable set and enjoyed the warmth and generosity of the Toronto audience. After show, we ran back to the hotel and a few of us made the pilgrimage to Hemmingway’s bar across the road in the shadow of the site of the old Four Seasons hotel. It’s been here for 25 years, almost as long as we’ve been coming to Yorkville, my first stay being in 1981. The day off after the Toronto show was most welcome. The last 3 days have been strangely tiring, not least for the crew. My day off priority was an invitation for a return visit to the beautiful Credit Valley Golf Club in Mississauga. The Uber driver that showed rolled up in under 3 minutes outside the hotel turned out to be quite the nicest guy and also an excellent driver. After 3 months with our crack European team, I’m qualified to say so. Of Iranian descent (which I correctly guessed), he asked me why I was in town. I told him and he was genuinely excited as he had recently discovered Sultans Of Swing but didn’t know it’s origin. We chatted all the way there and he offered to collect me for the return journey, which he did. I introduced him to music from his new genre discovery (the 70’s and 80’s), a bit of Nick Drake and he played me some lovely music by Hamed Nikpay from Iran. Thanks Eman. Back at the hotel, a few of the band fancied heading across the road to ‘Mortons’ steak restaurant. A chain of 78 restaurants that has remained consistently brilliant since 1978. It was actually founded by two guys from Montreal but the first restaurant opened in Chicago. Incidentally, we got in contact with the lone autograph hunter in Montreal. Thanks for getting in touch Hilbert.