Alexisonfire Received a Hero's Welcome in Toronto

History, April 27

Photo: Chris Gee

BY Manus HopkinsPublished Apr 28, 2022

Relatively little promotion didn't stop the hype for Alexisonfire's return to Toronto Wednesday evening (April 27). The band only announced the surprise, free show a couple weeks in advance, but tickets were immediately snatched up the next morning within minutes of being released. Those lucky fans who were able to get them in time crammed into Toronto's newest large venue, History, which looked too nice for a raucous show like this.

Fans were still flocking in when openers Chastity started their set. The Whitby, ON, band did a fine job warming up the crowd for the headliner, with a fitting emo-punk style that went over well with those who showed up early, and hopefully earned the group a few new fans. But it was clear that there was one band that everyone was there to see, and the anticipation for Alexisonfire could overshadow just about any opening set. With the starting notes of their opening song, "Drunks, Lovers, Sinners and Saints," it felt as if the night had truly begun. 

It's easy to see that Alexisonfire are not the kids they used to be, as the crowd chanted along with them during "Old Crows" — they've aged gracefully, but aged nonetheless in the 20 years since releasing their debut album. Some things haven't changed, though, one being the band's energy, particularly that of frontman George Pettit, who exhibited electrifying showmanship, never standing still for a second throughout the band's 16-song set and four-song encore, and encouraging the crowd to do the same. It's obvious that Pettit hasn't forgotten where the band came from; he took a moment to look back on the small venues they played 20 years ago, clearly still thankful that his band is able to fill a room this size (and rooms far larger) two decades into their career and after a lengthy hiatus.

Nostalgia was a big part of the evening. While new singles "Sweet Dreams of Otherness" and "Reverse the Curse" — from Otherness, their forthcoming first album in 13 years — went over well with the crowd, the setlist was mainly made up of older tunes, including eight songs off of 2006's Crisis. There's no song that didn't make the crowd completely lose it, and at times it seemed like Pettit is working hard to not be outdone by a room of fans that knows every lyric just as well as he does — though he did let the crowd sing a cappella for parts of encore track "This Could Be Anywhere in the World," a particular highlight of the evening.

Though Alexisonfire played a full two hours, the show didn't feel overly long, and actually got more impressive as it went on, with the band showing no signs of tiring out. The clearly rehearsed precision with which every song started and ended did wonders for maintaining the momentum and keeping the adrenaline pumping, and the band knew it. They teased the crowd with a drawn-out intro on ".44 Caliber Love Letter" early in the set, sending the fans into a frenzy waiting for the song to kick in. 

Something about seeing Alexisonfire in the band's home area felt more special than it would be somewhere else. As Canada's flagship post-hardcore act, the band will always be a point of pride for Canadian fans, and rightfully so, as they proved with this performance.

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