Review + Photos: Alessia Cara and Craig Stickland @ The Danforth Music Hall – Toronto

Alessia Cara
Toronto in January is a good blend of heaven and hell. The snow encased scenery and yet sub-zero, skin gnawing temperatures are a mix meant to cause dilemma so when I got to The Danforth Music Hall at 7:00pm, right when I thought doors would open, I felt lucky. Unfortunately, the meet and greet with Alessia Cara ran a little long, and by a little I mean thirty achingly painful minutes lined up on The Danforth a block away from the venue. I went to this concert having heard only a few of Alessia’s songs, the ones I had heard on the radio. I knew even less about the opening act, Craig Stickland. It seemed that every line I stood in before I got into the actual hall was filled with people who knew Alessia personally – her friends, family, people who went to highschool with her and those who once saw her at a grocery store. You see, when an artist from Toronto comes back to play in Toronto it is somewhat of a sacred ritual. We laugh, cry, sip Tim Hortons coffee, joke about Toronto-things but most of all the people of Toronto love musicians who started on these very streets because it connects us in a self proclaimed, profound way. Despite the chilling weather that left my feet numb, I was nothing but ecstatic to see what Alessia Cara and her Know It All tour brought to the stage.

Craig Stickland was the opening act of the night and his vocals absolutely blew me away. He performed his single Liquor Store Blues, with so much passion. The song itself is very hollow and Craig knew exactly when to grab the audience with his high notes and guitar shenanigans. He elaborated about touring and how he was happy to be back in Toronto – yes, he too is from Toronto (ironically, I think it should it should have been called the All Toronto Tour but that’s a story for another time). The peak of Craig’s set was when he performed a cover of Hello by Adele and he slayed that too. He added his own alternative vibes to the song and sang the first few choruses in a soft and low voice, so it was really surprising when he went from that to hitting Adele’s high notes. When Craig sang the whole audience sang along and the way it made me feel was indescribable. I didn’t waste a moment after Craig walked off stage and I followed him on every social media platform possible, I am obsessed.

After I successfully convinced the tall boys in front of me to let me get in front of them – with the help of the awesome family behind me whose daughter’s name was also Alessia, the lights dimmed and the colourful concert rays radiated the stage as Alessia’s band took their place. That was when the curly-haired girl from the suburbs around Toronto took her place on stage. The first song she performed is her track called I’m Yours and you could hear the excitement everyone in the audience was feeling. If you’ve never watched the music video for this song, you have to – it’s what dreams are made of. Hearing Alessia sing it on stage was a whole different experience, she sang her heart out and it was just beautiful.

She then sang her single Wild Things and I felt sufficiently left out when everyone around me was singing the lyrics – but this is always a good sign. She sang about her aspirations and goals before her rise to fame in her song Four Pink Walls, her performance of this song showcased her bubbly personality and her deep voice that is reminiscent of a late Amy Winehouse. When her song Overdose rolled around a man who was about 6 feet tall decided to push in front of me – directly in front of my 4 foot frame and the girl beside me was just not having it. I have to give her credits because without her I probably would have been staring at his back for the rest of show, and it is short concert go-er code that we have to look out for each other.

Alessia’s performance of Stars brought to the venue the cliche concert moment where everyone turns the flashlight on their phones on, this never – and I mean never gets old. It was a slow song and the modesty of the performance gave the audience a moment to appreciate and absorb her gorgeous voice. The next song was a crowd favourite and was a cover of the hit single Diamonds by Rihanna. The crowd echoed Alessia’s singing and it felt as though all of Toronto was singing along to her soulful voice. Outlaws and Seventeen were the next songs on her setlist and they were flawless. As she sang the words to Seventeen the audience echoed the bridge of the song and finished her sentence, I believe that as an artist having people you knew in your childhood, your friends and family sing back your work of art to you is one of the most magical moments you can experience.

My personal favourite part of the night was when she stopped to talk to the audience addressing something she felt strongly about. Alessia talked about the pressure the media puts on young women to look a certain way, she dedicated the song Scars to Your Beautiful to all of the girls in the audience. It was incomparable to anything I have seen before at the concert because Alessia found a way to connect with the girls of all ages in the audience on a more personal level and I am 100% sure there were quite a few tears shed. It was a powerful performance and was moving for the people in her audience. She then took a Polaroid of her audience in her hometown on her first headlining tour, now that is special.

She saved the most popular song for last and attempted to end the night with her anthem Here that took her career where it is. She even stopped singing and let the audience finish the chorus and every single person in the room was singing, including me. The song itself is so attractive that hearing it live was almost like a trance because of the sound of her voice and the background hum of the audience singing along. Alessia thanked the people of Toronto more times than I can count and when she walked off stage you knew the crowd wasn’t done with her yet. They chanted “encore” religiously until she once again took her rightful place on stage and performed My Song for us. It was a strong and solid end for the first Toronto show of the Know It All tour.

The Know It All tour was an unforgettable experience and left me with enough Instagram moments to drive my friends insane. Craig Stickland took the time after the show to come out and meet fans. I had the rad opportunity to meet him myself and he was extremely kind and spent quality time speaking to everyone who approached him. Alessia Cara put on a show incomparable to any I have been to. She found a way to make it an incredible experience for everyone in the audience. Alessia ultimately delivered everything the audience wished for and more. There is nothing more I could have asked for in a show, Alessia proved just what “There is no love like Toronto love” means, and I can’t wait to see her in Toronto again.

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Alessia Cara

Craig Stickland

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Follow updates from Alessia Cara here.

Photos by Justin Roth (@dailycitytrain) | Review by Jiya Mehta (@maydayjiya)

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