CONCERT REVIEW: Middle Earth In Midtown – A Recap Of ALESTORM, ELVENKING & GLYPH In Toronto (March 22nd, 2024)

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Photos by Anthony DeCrisantis

It’s late March, but the winter still insists on rearing its ugly head in Toronto, after a few weeks of positive temperatures. On Friday, March 22nd, a huge snowfall preceded the shows of Alestorm, Elvenking, and Glyph at The Concert Hall, a masonic temple in the heart of midtown.

Doors opened at 7 PM, but that was not enough to get the huge line of fans into the venue on time. Coat check was also very slow, and as a result, I missed most of Glyph’s set. They’re a new band, formed from the ashes of acts like Gatekeeper, Greyhawk, Hjelvik, and Ravenous, and their debut album, “Honor, Power, Glory”, is yet to come out. The one song I could check out in full from their set was “Voloråd”, and they’re definitely worth a deeper listen. This was their first-ever show in Canada, and hopefully, it won’t be too long before they come back to these shores.

Glyph Photo Gallery

Elvenking came up next, with singer Davide “Damnagoras” Moras wearing deer horns as a crown. They started their set with “Rapture”, from their latest album “Reader of the Runes – Rapture”. The band is in the middle of the “Reader of the Runes” trilogy, and this is the second installment, released in 2023. After that song, from my viewpoint, it was easy to see Damnagoras taking off the crown and handing it to one of the roadies, in an almost solemn way, like a method actor leaving his character behind.

One notable absence on Elvenking was violinist Fabio “Lethien” Polo, who, as later explained, could not join them for certain dates on this tour. His parts were recorded and piped in during the show, and apparently, he will join them in future dates. The fast-paced and folksy “Pagan Revolution” was a definitive highlight of their set, which was split in two acts of six songs each. The pulsating basslines of Alessandro “Jakob” Jacobi elevated “Silverseal”, while guitarists Federico “Aydan” Baston and Mattia “Headmatt” Carli really shone on the metal bliss of “Moonbeam Stone Circle”. “Bride of Night” really showcased their evolution as performers and songwriters.

Their set progressed with fan-favorite “The One We Shall Follow”, with a mob-like chorus that was sung enthusiastically by the crowd. The set closer was “Elvenlegions,” a fitting end to the band’s first foray on Canadian’s stages.

Elvenking Photo Gallery

It was time for Alestorm to start their show, and of course, the enormous inflatable duck was brought as part of their stage setup, splitting the back part of the stage in two. Hilariously, drummer Peter Alcorn and keyboardist Elliot Vernon were separated by the duck in an elevated platform through the back. Singer/keytarist Christopher Bowes came complete with a kilt, and guitarist Máté Bodor was wearing the shortest shorts you could get in the market.

The saga of the so called “joke bands” started in the early 90’s, with acts like Scatterbrain, Ugly Kid Joe and Dread Zeppelin sending a message for the old generation to not take themselves too seriously. Sadly, those bands did not survive back then, and they too were swallowed by grunge. It would take years for humor to be again accepted in music, and the success of a band like The Darkness in the early 2000’s lit that spark again. Alestorm is an obvious consequence of the resurgence of that style, and their jokester nature is all over the place during their live presentations.

The band hit the stage with the accordion-fuelled “Keelhauled”, and the crowd instantly went nuts. One tradition of their shows is to have many fans dressed as pirates, and tonight was no different. On “No Grave But the Sea”, fans broke the front-row barricade, which caused a ten-minute delay. As the staff was trying to fix things up, the band played an extended reggae jam, which included parts of the “Crazy Frog” theme.

While security was still trying to fix the barricade, on “The Sunk’n Norwegian” Chris asked the crowd to “not go nuts”, which didn’t help in terms of keeping the crowd still. Luckily, everyone was safe. The heaviness of “Under Blackened Banners”, with harsh vocals by Elliot, contrasted with the pop feel of “Hangover”. Their cover of The Arrogant Worms“The Last Saskatchewan Pirate” saw its live debut, and was met with cheers and horns in the air.

They continued with the furious “Wenches and Mead”, a staple of their shows, and “Magellan’s Expedition”, which quotes directly from the “Back to the Future” theme. On “Voyage of the Dead Marauder”, one of the rare “serious” moments of their set, they brought Barbara Blackthorne, the lead singer of American band Empress. The shenanigans soon came back, with Chris announcing that “we stole this song from Bob the Builder”, as he announced “Big Ship, Little Ship”. Barbara would return to the stage later on for their rendition of “Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship”.

Those who have seen Alestorm live know that one of the most awaited moments is “1741 (The Battle of Cartagena)”. The crowd was obviously in on the joke, and got down to the floor to row for the entire seven minutes of this song – truly a sight to behold! They followed with another highlight, “Shit Boat (No Fans)”. Sadly, they had to end the proceedings by playing a rushed version of “Fucked With an Anchor”, due to the ongoing issues with the barricade and the venue’s curfew. No complaints though, and this show brought a much-needed jolt of energy to a city that is struggling with a lingering winter.

The “Tour of the Dead Marauder” has only just begun, and I strongly suggest you get your pirate clothes and your pint of beer to see Alestorm on stage wherever you can!

Alestorm Photo Gallery

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