Kittie / Nothing Left for Tomorrow / Mary and the Black Lamb / AetherBorn / Polarity Opera House, Toronto ON February 18

Kittie / Nothing Left for Tomorrow / Mary and the Black Lamb / AetherBorn / Polarity Opera House, Toronto ON February 18
This show was rather oddly curated, featuring a selection of bands with widely differing aesthetics and live experience. As a result, the Ontario support was a bit hit and miss, and the energy in the room varied widely during the opening sets, leaning towards the subdued.

Polarity started the evening off fairly strong. Based in Mississauga, they refer to themselves as progressive, but in practice feature a metal backbone fused with alternative rock melodies. Vocalist Jasmine was animated and engaged, thanking the crowd for their obvious enthusiasm and bopping around the stage. All members of Polarity have decent stage presence, and were a solid kickoff for the rest of the concert.

Unfortunately, AetherBorn took the show down a notch. Based in Hamilton, they delivered vaguely metal-ish rock with strong pop sensibilities but seemed shy on stage, without establishing a solid rapport with their audience. Vocalist Sarah Todd seemed distracted, barely talking to the audience and adopting a weird style of spastic headbanging that looked as if she was trying to fend off a swarm of bees. AetherBorn seemed a bit cowed by the whole experience, and might have performed better in a smaller venue and with more confidence.

Mary and the Black Lamb took it upon themselves to recapture some of the energy in the room. Hailing from Oshawa, their dark symphonic rock with gothic metal flourishes seemed well-suited in theme if not in execution to the headliner's sound. Their music was lifted and carried by vocalist Lindsay Schoolcraft (aka Lindz Riot), whose strong, clear voice served as the muscle and source of forward momentum for the band's sound. Perhaps best of all, they played with light and dark tones, using either the harsh vocals of Nixon Cutz to create deeper shadows or Kyle Cullen's bright keys to dapple in some light.

London, ON's Nothing Left for Tomorrow finally brought some aggression to the night with their much thrashier groove metal set. They had an edge to their guitar tone that was reminiscent of Bay Area thrash, though their thicker, chugging riffs have a distinct death metal tang. Justin Holmes's guitar and Pat Dwyer's bass formed the backbone of their sound, and Yasmina's harsh vocals had just enough wildness to them, making them the best choice for direct support out of the lineup by far.

Crowd swelled visibly before Kittie's set, and when they stormed the stage like Valkyries, the Opera House erupted with the first real demonstration of passion of the night. This show was one of the last shows bassist Ivy Vujic will play with Kittie, as she will be leaving the band after performing at Australia's Soundwave festival, and she appeared determined to make the most of it. She and Tara McLeod strode around the stage, grinning and swinging their hair, making it look as if performing was the most fun thing they could imagine doing.

Vocalist Morgan Lander was a charismatic and arresting frontwoman. The singer's harsh vocals have been her trademark, but it was her clean singing that was particularly noteworthy, and her ability to move between both styles with ease was impressive. Kittie made the decision not to play "Brackish," and instead stuck to a solid set drawn from their mid-catalogue, with new material from I've Failed You pepper in as well, including "Empires (Part 2)." They closed the set with "We Are the Lamb," and returned for an encore of "Burning Bridges," which they gleefully announced they had not practised. Kittie played live with guts and grace, showing off a genuine love for being on stage.