On Monday (June 18), James Struthers, Tyler Del Pino and Chad Price all performed at C’est What in Toronto. The trio are are travelling for James‘ Oh! Canada Tour, a 50 date journey in 60 days. I caught them on the last leg of their cross-country adventure.
Part 1: James Struthers
James Struthers is just a regular guy trekking the country with nothing but himself and his guitar. But really, that’s all he needs.
I’ll admit, this was my first time hearing James’ music. I was kindly warned before the show that I “would fall in love, because most girls do.” But the fact is we all like to think we’re the exception to every rule. And I’m no exception to that fact.
James opened his acoustic set with a wonderful ska tune titled “Dream Girl.” It took me a while to put my finger on it, but his vocal styling reminded me of songs from Justin Nozuka’s album Holly. From there, he went right into “Speed On Home,” a beautiful song about a long distance relationship.
Here’s the thing. I could write a review about how every song James played had that perfect touch to win over the audience, whether it was an unexpected falsetto, his effortless technique, or even just a simple smile (every girl in the room thought he was implicitly singing to her). But if I do that, then I would make him sound like every other singer-songwriter that plays an acoustic show and you would probably go back to listening to Dallas Green or Justin Nozuka anyway.
James’ edge comes from his songwriting. “I write a lot of love songs,” he confessed. But It’s not about whether you write love songs or not, it’s about what kind of love song you write. Love for a girl, life, or in this case, a robot.
This was the first time I’d ever heard a Transformers reference in what could be a very romantic sounding tune. “You, Me and Optimus Prime” was actually quite the happy-go-lucky, care free song. James called it a “reminder to grow old, but to never grow up.” You could probably plug in somebody else’s mushy lyrics to these chords and you’d have a great tune for radio blah blah blah, but unless they’re about Megatron, I doubt there’d be much competition for lyrical originality.
“Together Again,” “One Track Mind,” and “This Side of a Broken Heart” were all great, but I still think James’ spark (no pun intended) comes from his ability to balance creativity, emotion and music together. You just have to listen to feel the impact of his music, but you have to listen closely to feel the full impact of his words. However, this was difficult at times given the speed of some his phrases, but if you don’t listen closely, this musical treat may just pass you by like any other four chord pop song.
So, did I fall in love? Let’s put it this way: we all think we’re the exception to the rule. But rules are rules because they allow no exceptions.
Part 2: Tyler Del Pino
Given that this whole showcase was acoustic, I liked Tyler‘s energy that he brought to every song, because after a while the same old acoustic guitar act can get redundant. His opening song choice had a riff that sounded very similar to “Neon” by John Mayer, and from there the show just stayed upbeat and lively.
Tyler just released an EP called This is the End, so he played the title track and followed it with “Dancer,” a new song that will be on his upcoming record.
He ended with “Supernatural Girl” which he revealed has been pitched to One Direction. It was a very catchy song, which made me think he should he should venture more into the pop side of things. It was the most genuine performance of the night, and I can definitely picture One Direction or another boyband turning that song into a hit.
Part 3: Chad Price
There isn’t just one genre to describe Chad Price‘s music. On one hand, he’s got a very soulful voice, but on the other, he plays your typical pop-rock songs. But somewhere in the middle there’s a slight country twang with the occasional bluesy slapback as he sits there keeping the beat with his guitar.
I think it’s a safe bet that most artists start their set with an original song. Instead, Chad opted for covering “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People. It was a smart move – the intimate audience began turning heads because they were not expecting a soulful, acoustic cover of a modern dance-rock song.
Chad was joined on stage by his cousin, Da-Rell, who is a renowned Toronto percussionist and kept the pace throughout Chad’s set. They’re a good pair; Da-Rell’s sense of rhythm filled in for the the absent band.
Chad released his debut album In This Dream in March, which was recorded with Bill Bell (Jason Mraz’s guitarist). There’s certainly a Mraz-y feel when he sings, but Chad is a man of many influences including John Mayer, Dallas Green and Norah Jones. His first single, “Another Day,” has been earning more and more spins on stations around Ontario. Chad describes it as a “happy, summertime, fun song” ideal for patio-drinking or beach-sitting.
This was definitely a show with more than adequate vocals and accompaniment. However, because I’ve heard the album, I feel like an acoustic set for Chad isn’t the best representation of his multi-genre portfolio. A lot of the stylistic twists that I like about Chad’s music can’t be represented with a single guitar, whereas the full studio tracks showcase his ability to weave genres and techniques within each other, amplifying what he is capable of creating. Listening to “Another Day” acoustically did feel like a “happy summer time” song and was very uplifting, but on the recording the harmonious “ahhs” leading up to the chorus change the entire feel of the song, leaving behind a tinge of solemness. This certainly doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the acoustic performance; Chad is very personable with his audience and is without a doubt a good performer. But it’s the overlap of technical and emotional elements that makes his music unique in the first place.
However, Monday’s version of “This Dream” didn’t disappoint. Chad decided to break into one chorus of TLC’s “No Scrubs” during the bridge, followed by a chorus of “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars. Somehow he made a pop song, a 90’s throwback and a half-reggae jam fit under the same umbrella of strumming patterns and minor chords.
Chad premiered a new song as well. So new, that it’s still untitled. So, if the above is any indication of the way he writes and performs his music, his next album will probably remain a complete surprise until it’s released. Maybe this time, he’ll mix pop-rock into classical with an Eastern influence or something.Who knows. Regardless, it’s always a good surprise with Chad Price.