Concert Review: Ruston Kelly, Margaret Glaspy, November 15, Axis Club


The closure of music venues across Toronto and elsewhere has been just one of the many disheartening things about life during COVID, with one of the more notable local casualties being the loss of The Mod Club. Luckily though, we barely had time to mourn that venue before it was announced that a new club would be opening in its place. And so the Axis Club was born. The venue’s been open now for a couple of months or so, and last night I got the chance to check it out for myself when Ruston Kelly and Margaret Glaspy played there as part of Kelly’s Shape & Destroy Tour.

So what’s the verdict on Axis Club? Not bad – there’s been a few alterations made since the Mod Club days, most notably the removal of the slightly elevated spot on the floor of the venue, but it’s not too drastic of a change and generally the place looks pretty good. Overall though, it’s just nice to see that the venue has survived, albeit with a change in name and ownership. Live music has definitely been missed and the more places around where shows can take place the better.

For her part, Margaret Glaspy also spoke of the importance of live music, how good it was to be back in Toronto, and how grateful she was to be performing and touring again. “This exchange that we do between a musician and an audience is just such a holy thing,” she said, and that’s as good a way as any to put it.

The importance of that “holy thing” Glaspy spoke of also came up during Ruston Kelly’s set as he spoke of the significance of this particular tour to him personally.

“I needed to do this tour,” he said, noting that the beginning stages of what would become Shape & Destroy marked a new beginning for him as he ended a cycle of drug abuse and addiction. He told the story of the first song he wrote for the album, a song that according to him, resonated deeper with him than any of his songs had before. That song, “Rubber”, was a definite highlight of the night.

While Ruston Kelly is a talented songwriter, 2019’s Dirt Emo showed that he’s also capable of doing some solid cover songs, and some of the more memorable moments of his set came through in his choice of covers. His version of “Teenage Dirtbag” is surprisingly effective – the grit in his voice and the weeping steel guitar certainly add a bit of pathos to Wheatus’s tale of teenage love and Iron Maiden fandom. And of course with Taylor Swift’s recent release of her rerecorded version of Red, Kelly’s cover of “All Too Well” does in fact fit in all too well with the current zeitgeist. He kept his version well under 10 minutes though, which may have disappointed any hardcore Swifties in attendance. That’s OK, though – they’ll just have to wait for the inevitable Red (Taylor’s Version) world tour.

Posted on by Paul in Concerts

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