This Ain’t Hollywood 345 James Street North
When I heard Diamond Rings was coming back to Hamilton, I knew I had to be there! John O & co. have been on a whirlwind of promotion for the new album Free Dimensional, including performances on late night staples Leno and Letterman. I’ve been a fan since I heard “Something Else” off his debut album, and jumped at the chance to finally catch his live show.
Hamilton’s own Jessy Lanza took the stage first. I hadn’t heard of Jessy before and was glad to be introduced to some new local music. I didn’t know what to expect when the petite performer stepped onstage in her baggy sweater and with a calm demeanor. The beats kicked in and she produced a very cool pop/house/R&B sound. She had a quiet authority about her and the crowd really responded to her music, bobbing along to the beats. Jessy has a cool, laid-back vibe but still really digs in and feels the music. I enjoyed the smooth R&B groove of her track “As If.” Her track “Fuck Diamond” was also a highlight and a fitting song title for the diamond theme of the show.
Gold & Youth, based out of Vancouver, were up next. The band had been touring with Diamond Rings and were a good opening act to compliment the glam rocker. They played a solid set that amped things up a little more to get us ready for the headliner. I liked how the four-piece switched up their instruments and vocals throughout their set. Matthew’s deep vocals and Louise’s airy vocals traded off each other well. They’ve got a great 80s, New Wave-y sound to them.
They closed their set with “Time to Kill,” one of two tracks I had heard before. The song is dark and mysterious, with its steady, pulsating beat and gathers momentum as it rolls on. It has me in a bit of a trance when I listen to it, making me hit repeat when it’s over. Gold & Youth’s debut album Beyond Wilderness is slated for release in the fall of 2013 on Arts & Crafts. Check out a couple songs I took of their performance.
This was a sold out show, I should add. Set times were all pushed back an hour, due to the first major bit of snow to hit the city this season, but that didn’t stop the place from filling up quickly. The bar was crammed with people wanting to get up close to the stage for Diamond Rings.
From his first step onstage, even as the band were sound checking, you could feel John’s presence. The man is a star! There was an extra crackle of energy in the air, like we were about to witness one heck of a show.
Everything about This Ain’t Hollywood suited Diamond Rings. John had played the venue before, but not with a full band. The fog machine was in full effect for this show and combined with the bright blue and purple lights (matching his latest album cover), it all worked well with Diamond Rings’ music and image. It was dance party and a rock show from beginning to end.
John rocked out on the guitar for most of the set. When he put the guitar down, I was not expecting those moves! He did a little, what I call “action dancing,” where your dance moves act out the lyrics, during “All the Time.” His moves are so unique and he was so much fun to watch. It was impossible not to dance along with him. Someone threw a Ring Pop onstage, a cute idea. John unwrapped the candy and put on the new accessory without missing a beat.
They played almost all of Free Dimensional, which I’ve been listening to a lot lately, and I was so excited to see and hear the songs live. The album is a burst of confidence, with songs like “(I Know) What I’m Made Of,” “Stand My Ground,” and of course, the lead single “I’m Just Me” (which made my July Playlist). His songs get me going every time and I love the lyrics.
Sometimes I feel like I don’t know where to start
Sometimes I feel as if I’m falling apart
But in the end I know all I can do is follow my heart
– “Stand My Ground”
A big highlight was the irresistible single “Runaway Love,” my favourite song off the new album. The whole album is fantastically catchy, but this song was a standout right from my first listen. I couldn’t help but sing along as I filmed the performance. Well, lip sync. You guys don’t need to hear that. The song made my November Playlist and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. It’s my jam! Check it out in my video.
As good as the new album is, many in the audience were familiar with Diamond Rings’ material and were getting antsy to hear some of his older songs too. John treated us to “Something Else” and “All Yr Songs.”
For a special hometown connection, Diamond Rings’ drummer Greg, aka Muffled Suitcase, is from Hamilton, so there were extra cheers as John introduced the band. Speaking with John later, he told me they will be back for sure, especially having that connection to the city.
I got to chat briefly with John after his set, after patiently waiting for the girl ahead of me, who couldn’t decide on what to call the performer (“Diamond? Mr. Rings?”). He was so sweet and personable, telling me that he had a few wardrobe changes during his show the night before in Toronto. I was already impressed with his studded leather vest and studded shoes! I also love how the whole band had matching jackets, like a team. I took care to choose the right outfit for this show, myself, opting for studs and sequins (which scored me a retweet from John!).
Going to so many shows, you really know when you’ve witnessed a great one. Leaving this show, I felt like I really experienced a full concert. I feel lucky to have caught him now in an intimate space like this. He could easily fill out a big arena stage; the sky’s the limit for Diamond Ring’ music and live show. Can’t wait to catch him again!