On March 21st, recently resurrected ‘70s Detroit punk band, Death, conquered the Phoenix Concert Theatre for their first ever Toronto show.
Though the doors opened at 8:00pm, the opening act, Toronto’s ARSON, didn’t take to the stage until 11:00pm. After powering through the first half of their 30-minute set, lead singer, Rude vanSteenes, addressed the crowd with a brief apology, “we’re sorry to make you wait, but we’re giving you what you want”. ARSON originated as a band in the ‘70s as well and have reunited only in 2010 to play gigs around Toronto. After the band banged out a few more Stooges/New York Dolls-esque songs, the Canadian punk legends finished their energetic and nostalgic performance.
Death, originally a three-piece band of brothers formed in 1973, recorded their only album in 1976, For the Whole World to See, with no success. It wasn’t until the 2012 release of the documentary, A Band Called Death, which showcased the trio’s story, that the band got a second life.
With funk riffs, punk spirit and even at times, some disco influence, the trio that consisted of original members Dannis Hackney (drums) and Bobby Hackney (bass), along with newly recruited guitarist Robbie Duncan, gave the crowd what they were hoping for; a piece of the past that would be cherished by vinyl lovers for years to come. They covered the entire album without a stone unturned and they always made sure to pay respect to David, the third brother and founding member who died of cancer in 2000.
The venue wasn’t full, which was shocking enough, but what was even more of a surprise was half the crowd traveled four hours across the boarder from Detroit to see their hometown heroes. Many times through the night the crowd would just burst into chants of “Detroit! Detroit!” It seemed like they were enjoying the night even more so than any of the locals.
Thankfully, Death also graced the crowd with two new songs, “Play Time” and “Relief” that will be on the upcoming album. The two new songs aren’t exactly the Death all their fans fell in love with, with less complex songwriting that the late Hackney brother contributed to the debut album.
At the end of the night, a thick coat of satisfaction glazed the audience, and so was the band. A triumphant return or grand entrance, whichever way light you choose to cast on this now touring band, it is fantastic to see a life of passion paying off.