Bloor Street was shut down, a stage was erected, the TD Jazz festival was showing off their muscles to Toronto and saying we are growing and getting strong. With that said the kick-off party began with The Downchild Blues Band! This is going to be a righteous evening of fun danceable blues music. It was also a true celebration of the longevity of this band. Donny Walsh started this band 50 years ago and by the end of the show, there seems to be more miles left in the gas tank for years to come.
The celebration began with a commanding voice behind the stage, introducing the members of the band and revving up the audience. That authoritative voice belonged to the one and only Dan Ackroyd. The band opened up with the song, “Can you hear the music”. Now was that a jab to this aging audience who may be hard of hearing? Who cares, the party has begun and the swaying music was creeping into our bodies.
Just as the soiree was hitting a fine stride, the band invited on stage long time friend and well known Torontonian, David Wilcox. Now if anyone can ramp up a party, it was this guy. With songs like “It’s a matter of time”, and ,”Madison Blues”, the crowd was in full swing and just wanted this train to keep on rolling.
It only got better when one of their older members joined them. It was Gene Gene the keyboard machine! He now plays with the Texas outfit called The Fabulous Thunderbirds. He got us to, “Jump right up”, and then he went to, “Tell you Mother”. His keyboard playing was nothing less than electric. He added deeper dimensions to this already boisterous band and flung that energy into the crowd. Then they invited a female guitar player all the way from Finland named, Erja Lyytinen. This little spitfire of a guitarist could melt half the ice from her country with her blistering solos. Here is a woman who had one day to learn the very fun song, Mississippi Woman, Mississauga Man. She did it with style and grace and a whole lot of chutzpa.
Another former member of Downchild hit the stage to smoke his stuff, Mr Kenny Neal. His song seemed appropriate, he wailed into, “It’s been a long time”, and then did the “Shotgun Blues”. He laid down some serious riffs, to the point where, who was going to pick up the pieces. Well that question was quickly answered. This was the moment a lot of people arrived to this show. We finally got a live piece of Elwood Blues (Dan Ackroyd)! Well this Blues Brother got us swinging to the classic, “Born in Chicago”. It was one of the songs from the movie, The Blues Brothers. On keyboards during this set of music was the most dangerous man in the world, Paul Shaffer.
Well we had two great Canadians representing a monumental Blues band in Toronto on a perfect summer’s night. How much better could it get? Well if you throw in the Blue Brothers biggest hit, “Soul Man”, that can certainly help. Then do, “(I got everything I need) almost”, and finish your set with everyone’s favourite, “Flip Flop Fly”, you now have a perfect summer evening with one of our great bands.
Danny Walsh came out to do a little guitar solo as a personal pat on the back for 50 years of hard work and dedication. The band joined in one more time and concluded the evening with, “TV Mama”, an Elroy James tune. The band stuck around for a bit to sign autographs and meet with a lot of shiny happy people. TD Jazz, you started this year off just right.
Here are some images from Downchild’s performance:
If you want to know more, or pick up some of their music simply go here… https://www.downchild.com/index.php
Here is a short clip of Downchild, from the TD Jazz Festival: