By Sheroog Kubur, December 14 2022—
“You’re witnessing rock and roll history tonight.”
Those were the words uttered by the frontman of Toronto-born BRKN Love as they opened for the show. The energy in the venue was already electric, but hearing those words sent the room into a frenzy. BRKN Love was one of two openers for the Ontario-blues rock band the Blue Stones at their show at the Commonwealth Bar and Stage on November 20. The show featured a lineup that brought vastly different styles and sounds to the table but managed to keep the people begging for more.
The first opener was Hawaii-based musician Low Hum, mellow and melodic, to get the audience warmed up. The stage was doused in a cool blue when they came out, inviting the audience to gently sway while absorbing the intricate blend of synthesizers and guitars. It was a welcome introduction to the show, priming the audience for the rest of the night.
If Low Hum eased the crowd into the show, BRKN Love dove in headfirst. Frontman Justin Benlolo opened with a series of disclaimers — they’re not Nirvana or Led Zeppelin, but they are BRKN Love and they’re ready to make the room shake. The lights turned into a captivating red, indicating this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill concert. Benlolo had fun with the audience, inviting them to dance around, get sexy and celebrate all the smokers in the crowd. Despite technical difficulties, the band persisted, utilizing a three-minute drum solo to fill the space while guitars were being tuned.
The headliners for the show, undoubtedly, made the most noise. The venue went dark and a series of flashing white lights immediately followed. A chill went through the audience, eagerly anticipating their arrival. When the band eventually made their way to the stage, the audience launched themselves into unrelenting cheers. After the first song, technical difficulties persisted and caused the entire stage to blackout. Fans wasted no time showering the band with compliments on the first song and appreciation for coming to the city. One particularly grateful fan threw a bra, sending both the audience and the band into yet another frenzy.
The Blue Stones brought a soulful energy to the room. The lyrics were sincere and genuine, intertwining impassioned homages to blue oceans between admissions of how difficult it is to keep going. The audience resonated with each song, letting each rhythm overtake them. It was heartwarming to hear everyone shout along to the lyrics “I don’t trust myself, I feel like somebody else” while frontman Tarek Jafar’s voice reverberated through the crowd, underlining each lyric. Drummer Justin Tessier made substantial noise too, often standing up to beckon the crowd to sing along or to flaunt his new bolo tie.
Seeing a show with three bands on the lineup can be overwhelming, especially when you don’t know what to expect from most of them. Nonetheless, each act delivered an experience that couldn’t be traded for anything else, eventually coming together to create an experience that couldn’t be forgotten. The transition from the gentle synths of Low Hum to the ignited passion of BRKN Love culminated in the Blue Stones, who were able to bridge the gap between those two worlds. Each band can be found on all streaming platforms, but the live experience definitely outsells their recorded work. Next time any of the bands are in town, be sure to be the first in line for a ticket.