Last Saturday Toronto music collective The Maladies of Adam Stokes celebrated the release of their latest record by playing to a packed house at Lee’s Palace.
The Maladies of Adam Stokes started as a group of friends jamming together. Their voices were unpracticed, they used cigarette lighters for slides, and some were just starting to learn their instruments. But with passion, practice and perseverance, the Maladies became not only a real band, but a great one. Singer/guitarist Michael Hill puts reality to music, writing poignant songs about life, love and loss. These songs are brought to life by the incredible musical skill of multi-instrumentalists Emily Anderson (violin/keyboards/vocals) and Kohji Nagata (electric/slide guitars/trumpet/ glocken-spiel, and guitarist John Awerbuck, bassist Brett Harris and drummer Ted Turner. With influences ranging from Attack in Black to the Band and Kathleen Edwards to Blue Rodeo, the Maladies have a sound that warms the soul and quickens the pulse. With a full length album (City of Trees) under their belts, the Maladies of Adam Stokes were clearly thrilled to be sharing the fruits of their labour with the eager and adoring crowd at Lee’s Palace.
The Maladies filed on stage with a humility and bashfulness that was both refreshing and adorable. They thanked the large crowd for attending, and asked if everyone had a copy of the handy lyric books that a friend of the band had kindly put together. Looking around the crowd, it was evident that many people had not only picked up a booklet, but were diligently following along and singing with the band. What was more evident however was how many hard and true fans there were in the venue that night. They sang, they danced, they sang some more, but most of all they smiled; the smile of fans in the presence of the music they loved. And they loved every song played. The twangy “Hide in Here” featured beautiful harmonies between Hill and Anderson, and the skillful Nagata on slide guitar. “Crooked hand” was also a little bit country, as special guest, friend and the record’s producer Dave MacKenzie joined the Maladies on stage to play banjo and round out the song’s soulful strain. “Hollow love” was a fast paced song, filled with dark intensity, exemplified by Hill’s wrenching vocals and Awerbucks finger blurring guitar solo. And title track “City of Trees”’s already lovely keyboard melody was complimented with stirring three part harmonies courtesy of Hill, Awerbuck and Nagata. As the members of Beyond the Mountain, David Hustler and the Trustworthy and Graydon James and the Young Novelists (who were all on the bill that night) joined the Maladies on stage, that three part harmony swelled to one of a hundreds part harmony as the other musicians, and soon the crowd added their voices to the chorus, creating one of those perfect and unforgettable musical moments.
Every now and again, a band comes along that gets in your head, your heart, and your soul. The Maladies of Adam Stokes are just that kind of band. Their show at Lee’s Palace was a performance that was not only remarkable, but completely heartfelt. The band’s passion for music was evident and contagious in the best possible way. With every song and every show they reach into the hearts and minds of their listeners, reminding them what great music truly is, and how great it feels to find it.