Saga – Concert Review Toronto Sound Academy May 2013
Posted on May 29, 2013 by Terry Makedon
May 27 2013 - SAGA concert review from Toronto's Sound Academy on Saturday May 25 2013.
Saga are no strangers to T-Mak World as we have covered the local rockers quite a bit. We have coverage from Hamilton's Festival of Friends in 2011, and we have Michael Sadler's first Toronto show post his brief hiatus from the band here. Last year the band released their CD entitled 20/20 which we review here, and we also reviewed their CD release party here. Last but not least we were the first outlet to interview the band's new drummer Mike Thorne, and we got keyboardist Jim Gilmour interviewed on camera. The band which originally formed in Oakville (essentially a suburb of the metro Toronto area) has a career spanning 35 years, 20 studio albums and over 8 million sales.
On Saturday May 25 Saga took on the Sound Academy for a relatively rare "hometown" show, the band's first in three months. This show starts off the summer tour for the band with stops in Holland and Germany announced already and a big show in London Ontario with Styx, Toto, Coney Hatch and Grand Funk Railroad.
Opening for tonight's show was Mystery – a band that we thought was so excellent we gave them their own review that you can check out here. Saga took the stage at 10 pm prompt and delivered a solid 2 hour set. The show began with a non interrupted version of Anywhere You Wanna Go and Mouse in a Maze to get the band and fans warmed up. The familiar sound of Saga which lays a foundation of guitar riffs smothered in synths blasts through the venue with the incredible vocals of Sadler being the exclamation point.
"Good evening Toronto, nice to see you again. Is everything alright?" is how Sadler addresses the audience for the first time at the beginning of Careful Where You Step. Now in a groove the fourth song starts off with Sadler stating .."all these familiar faces, just like playing at home in a giant living room. He then asks who remembers some of the old Toronto bars like The Gasworks with a large majority of the audience raising their arms and screaming. "You will remember this then" claims Sadler as the familiar notes of How Long kick off (this is the first song on the band's first album from 1978 – 35 years ago). The song is executed in a seamless manner and brings back a different era to the room. Below is a YouTube video of How Long from this performance.
Sadler now works the audience like a magician and asks "Any requests?" to the enjoyment of the audience who screams out a variety of hits from Saga's massive back catalogue. The next song comes direct from the 70′s again with a strong live performance of You're Not Alone from 1978 which prompts the first audience sing along of the night including the mic going into the audience for a couple of people to sing along. A definite highlight of the night You're Not Alone is the best of what a live Saga show is all about.
Saga takes the opportunity to play "Spin It Again" from their latest album. This is only one of four songs that the band played this show that were not in last years show (the others being How Long, On The Air, and Time's Up. Also playing in Toronto tonight were none other than the Rolling Stones and their ridiculous ticket prices. Sadler did not forego the opportunity to take a jab at the Stones by stating if this was his 50 year anniversary tour he would be offering tickets for five bucks and not the 900 dollars that the Stones want (floor tickets were actually $625 and the greed that the Stones displayed this tour turned off many rock fans).
Next up is the incredible prog instrumental Corkentellis in it's full 7 minute glory. This is THE song that illustrates the band's technical abilities beyond any other and also provides a chance for Sadler to catch his breath.
A very solid On The Air leads to a very incredible The Cross which is the perfect buildup for one of Saga's best songs – the moody Time's Up which is introduced by acknowledging the contribution producer Rupert Hine had on the band's biggest album World's Apart.
The musicianship of Saga is beyond any possible description – you need to see them live to comprehend. Sadler is easily one of the all best lead singers – period. Gilmour is a wizard on the keys/synths (and as good as anyone I have ever seen live) and has a solid voice to top it off. The Crichton brothers are incredibly good – Ian is widely regarded by Saga fans as one of the worlds most underrated guitarists, Jim is insanely good on bass and keys (and showed incredible strength tonight while suffering a great personal tragedy recently). The new kid on the block Thorne is as bad ass as a drummer as we have ever seen and really pounded those drums with incredible precision, passion and finesse. Combined these 5 great musicians elevate the overall sound to a level that left all the rabid (and casual) Saga fans in attendance fully appreciative of their show.
The last 8 songs of the 18 song set are exactly the same that the band played Toronto last year and start off with the Gilmour driven Scratching The Surface – a song that hypnotizes the audience once again with its masterful delivery. The party is in full force now as the band delivers heavy hitters such as Humble Stance, On The Loose, Wind Him Up and Don't Be Late – a song that shines in a live setting.
Saga fully delivered a set that left many in the audience wondering when the next hometown show is. Imagine a world where Saga would play a monthly residency in one of Toronto's more intimate venues and a chance to let Toronto widely enjoy what many smart people in Germany know fully well – Saga f'ing rocks!
Verdict: 5 out of 5 – Saga is a child of Toronto's golden era of rock. Many of these bands no longer exist but Saga is still at the top of their game (as is the other product of Toronto who recently joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). This show demonstrates that Saga in Toronto (or anywhere really) is an event to not be missed. Excellent show by an excellent band.