Review: Tor Miller and Sean McVerry @ The Drake Underground – Toronto

The Drake Underground became Tor Miller’s living room for a few hours on Tuesday night. This native New Yorker had to dig himself out of the famous NYC Snowstorm a few nights ago to make it to a show in Vermont, which, due to weather conditions, only had 12 people show up. The sold out show in Toronto, housing about 200 music lovers brought him to a humbling pause as he thanked us for being there, not realizing he had so many fans just north of the border. I was one of the lucky ones to have been standing an arm’s length away from him.

Tor (just like Thor, but the Swedish spelling) is his given name and he spent a lot of time at the piano as a child. He took lessons and then started learning how to delve into pop music – what I like most about the compositions of his songs is that he’s never away from the piano – this gives him complete control of how a song will sound/move/transition. The only time he got away from the keyboard and started dancing around was when he sang his current radio single, Carter and Cash. He loved our reaction to it so much that he played it again in the encore and absolutely embraced it; this time by coming into the audience and hanging on to my boyfriend’s shoulder while bouncing around.

Tor’s collection of songs are beautiful, soulful, alternative indie-pop. His EP Headlights features my favorite ballad, Midnight. His voice is smooth as honey and soars between mid and falsetto ranges so gracefully it causes me to shed a tear or sing-along. It harkens a deep nostalgia for the big city and paints a picture of lovers and beggars all in the same midnight hour – lonely in the dark. My favorite lyrics are when he sings: Two lovers falling in each other’s arms, stumbling on down the highline/ Up on the bridge there’s a broken heart screaming to his valentine/ In the lonely hour of midnight/ When New York City’s lying wide awake/ under the glow of a street light/
I feel the rumble that the concrete makes.
The rest of his band of bass, guitar/keys and drums are really there to complement the complex piano melodies with the occasional killer guitar solo (seriously, Sean is mega-talented).

What strikes me most about this show is that my intentions were not much different than that crowd. We had heard Tor’s single on the radio and recognized something much different and unique – we heard that he was playing one of the most coveted venues in Toronto, The Drake Hotel, and took a chance and believed that something great would happen. There is a certain magic in seeing someone perform before their first full length album is released. There’s no stigma or expectation, there’s no “celebrity” or obsession – it’s simply music lovers getting together to support others.

Tor’s guitarist, Sean McVerry, opened up for him and Sean has this very eccentric sound – just his voice and a synth keyboard and his electric guitar (and occasionally a drummer – what a great guy). His minimalism really showcased his skills on the keyboard (sounds like he, too, was classically trained in piano), and his vocal range – it comes as no surprise that he is on tour with Miller. My favorite part of his set is when he covered Elton John’s Benny and The Jets. It had me wide-eyed and excited that someone so young could have a flavor for the legend.

Together, these two had an intimate and interactive night at The Drake and we sure hope that they’ll come back soon. My guess is that in a few years he’ll be playing Massey Hall – this might have been the last time I’d get to see Tor from an arm’s length away. Check out Tor Miller’s EP called Headlights on iTunes.

Review by Stefanie Romano | @stefaloves

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