Just twenty four hours after an enjoyable evening in Guelph with Jory Nash, we were back seated in a concert venue ready for another live music experience. And when it is another opportunity to see Royal Wood, how could we possibly miss this? This would be the first evening of his latest Canadian tour, which sees Royal not only accompanied by his full band, but also with special guest Elise LeGrow in tow as the showcased opening artist.
Sharing her wonderful soul grooves, and demonstrating her powerful vocals from the offset, Toronto’s Elise LeGrow commenced the evening of music with a seven track set that set the bar high for Royal to eventually follow. Joined on stage by Adam Bowman (guitar) and Jeff Eager (percussion), Elise would introduce her music to the audience at the Burlington PAC. “[My] album features songs from the ‘Chess’ catalog, so songs originally recorded by Chuck Berry, Etta James, Bo Diddley, and it was a joy to work on that album,” she shared. The trio would perform a handful of covers from her “Playing Chess” album, before road-testing a pair of new tracks slated to appear on her forthcoming collection of original music.
Opening with an outstanding and upbeat rendition of the popular Etta James hit “Rescue Me,” Elise would also perform the Moonglows ballad, “Sincerely,” and the Johnnie & Joe classic, “Over The Mountain, Across The Sea.” And while these standards naturally endeared the trio to the audience, Elise truly shone when performing her two original pieces. Delivering both tracks flawlessly, LeGrow demonstrated her incredible diversity, accompanied by her two colleagues, and offering hints of some wonderful music to look forward to in early 2019. With time for one final piece, Elise closed her set on a high, stunning everybody with her unique cover of the Sugar Pie DeSanto soul hit, “Going Back Where I Belong.” With her well-deserved ovation, Elise LeGrow added her name to our list of artists that we absolutely have to experience again live, and we are very eager to hear more of the original material coming next year.
Elise LeGrow Set List:
- Rescue Me
- Over The Mountain, Across The Sea
- ***Cry, Cry, Cry*** (Unreleased, actual title unknown)
- Never Can Tell
- ***Better Side Of You*** (Unreleased, actual title unknown)
- Going Back Where I Belong
Introduced to the stage following a brief intermission, Royal promptly seated himself at the grand piano, and opened the show with “Hardest Thing Of All,” the first of three tracks performed from his most recent “Ever After The Farewell” album. Inviting his band onto the stage, the audience would welcome his musical companions. Along with long-time manager and bassist Steve Zsirai, Royal was joined also by Mark Mariash (percussion), and backing vocalists Carleigh Aikins and Alanna Stuart. This five piece ensemble would go on to perform many tracks from across Royal’s extensive back catalog of music.
Offering three cuts from his previous “Ghost Light” album (“Morning Light,” “Long Way Out” and “Come Back To You”), the band would naturally add popular favorites such as “Not Giving Up” and the audience participation number, “Forever And Ever.” Royal would resurrect some of his older compositions into the set too, including “Tonight I’ll Be Your Guide” from his 2010 “The Waiting” album, and “Safe Haven” from 2007’s “A Good Enough Day.”
Taking time to retune his guitar early into the set, Royal would open dialogue with the audience. “Anybody out there married?” he asked. “So I have asked that question many times, and occasionally I get some interesting responses.” Pausing to acknowledge murmurs and chuckles from his audience, he would continue, “Like one time I asked that question and people booed, and then I asked is anyone divorced, and peopled cheered.” Royal would continue with a tale of how he wrote “l’m So Glad” for his older brothers wedding, adding that “Burlington is for lovers” to earn extra cheers from the hometown faithful.
With frequent references to his new marriage, Royal was keen to chat about his previous divorce too, offering that the experience prompted an escape to Ireland for a while. “I rented this little cottage in a farmers field in County Mead, with no TV, no phone, no internet, and no problems,” he shared. “It was amazing, and for the first couple of weeks, I just ended up writing, but by week three or four, all alone, you start to become like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.” Royal would then return to his “Ghost Light” album to perform his upbeat number, “Morning Light.”
Prior to performing “Not Giving Up” from his “We Were Born To Glory” album, Royal would share a comical moment with Steve Zsirai. “Steve just tried to make a joke with me and I didn’t understand,” stated Royal. “He’s one of my best friends in the world, and usually we communicate a joke with a word, but I didn’t get that one!” “I was making a joke when earlier you said ‘What is this, is there a baby sleeping?’,” Steve retorted. “And you came over and I said, ‘What is this, rice?’.” With a puzzled expression, Royal turned to the audience. “Okay, we’re gonna poll the audience, everyone who thought that was funny say ‘aye;’ everyone who thought that needed some work say ‘nay’.” With a few more ‘nays’ than ‘ayes,’ Royal would turn back to Steve, “The audience has decided!” “It’s a Borat reference,” replied Steve, “Therefore it’s funny!” Shaking his head in mock disagreement, the band would quickly launch into the song.
All of his companions would exit following this track, allowing Royal another moment of solitude on stage, and after picking up his ukulele, he bid the audience a good night with a cover of the Beatles hit, “Yesterday.” An appreciative Burlington audience would clap and cheer long enough to encourage the band back to the stage for a brief encore, closing with Royal’s ode to his recently deceased father (“Photograph”), before raising the roof one last time with a cover of the Bruce Springsteen classic, “Dancing In The Dark.” Another superb performance from Royal, and a great start to his final tour of 2018.
Royal Wood Set List:
- Hardest Thing Of All
- Tonight I’ll Be Your Guide
- Come Back To You
- Something About You
- I’m So Glad
- Forever And Ever
- Safe Haven
- Long Way Out
- Nowhere To Be Found
- Morning Light
- Not Giving Up
- Yesterday (The Beatles cover)
- Dancing In The Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover)