With a significant amount of buzz and attention in the progressive metal world being paid to the U.K.’s Haken this year, the band has built on their first ever headline tour of North America last year in support of “Restoration” with all eyes focused on touring their current masterwork “Affinity“. With the tour kicking off in Chicago and Buffalo in the U.S., it was time to shift north of the border to Canada and return to Toronto to a bigger stage than last year’s show. The crowd at the Virgin Mod Club was pumped in anticipation to hear the band return.
Opening the evening was Toronto’s own Astral Bell. With a sound complementing Haken’s, the band helped to get the crowd moving and excited for the rest of the evening. One of the band’s at the forefront of the “Toronto Prog” movement shone brightly.
Next up was Thank You Scientist. Adding this group in the support slot for this tour was a great pairing as the seven-piece band has received a great amount of buzz in prog circles recently with their new album “Stranger Heads Prevail” receiving great reviews. Mixing up their set list with songs from the new record and their previous album “Maps of Non-Existent Places“, the band received a glorious reaction from the crowd. Before finishing off their set with “My Famed Disappearing Act“, the band gave us a lively and inventive take on The Beatles “I Am The Walrus“. At the end of the set, myself and the other club patrons were left wanting more as the band amped us up and gave the crowd a great shot in the arm.
And after over a year of waiting for their return, Toronto enthusiastically welcomed Haken back to the city with a glorious ovation. Opening their set the same as their newest album, we were treated to “affinity.exe” and “Initiate“, which was welcomed with a engaging crowd response. “Falling Back To Earth” gave the crowd one of the few doses of material from “The Mountain” for the evening, alongside the great “Pareidolia” which is a personal favourite of mine. Leaning prominently on material from the current album, the band delivered “1985” as one of the most memorable songs of the night. Singer Ross Jennings performed with neon light-up green sunglasses to help bring back the retro atmosphere, complete with Diego Tejeida giving us some leads on a keytar!
“Deathless” was the lone track performed from “Visions“, which helped to give contrast to the craziness of the previous songs with it’s laid back and almost subdued energy. Crowd favourite “Cockroach King” was eaten up by the patrons, and it’s infectious and rollicking nature had us all jumping around and bobbing our heads in unison with every time change and up tempo chug of the instruments.
Finishing off the set with the infectious “The Endless Knot“, and with some energy left in all of us, we were treated to an encore of fan favourite “Celestial Elixir“, which sent us all off into the Toronto evening on a major high.
This show helped to prove that Haken are one of the best live acts going today. Everything performed on this evening was done precise and with a ton of drive and passion, and this wasn’t lost on the crowd who gave it back to the band in spades. I’ve been lucky enough to catch both of their appearances in Toronto, and I feel like any fans of the band should avoid holding out seeing them on this tour as it was as memorable as any show I’ve been to in a long time. My feeling is that this band is only going to get that much bigger and grace us with an even bigger tour and presence for their next album. All in all, one of the new leaders of progressive metal left us all satisfied on this September evening.