CMW Review: T.J. Kingston, Ivy James, Nathan Nasby11 May 2015 / by Sara Cristiano (author)
May 6 was the night of the singer-songwriter as Whitby's T.J. Kingston, Oakville's Ivy James, and Deloraine's Nathan Nasby all took the stage at The Dance Cave.
T.J. Kingston was visibly nervous during the first half of his set, but gradually became more comfortable as the night went on and the crowd grew in size. Kingston has clearly been playing guitar for a long time, and was able to show off his skills during his fast-paced cover of City and Colour's "The Girl". His warm, full voice is perfectly suited to fellow Canadian Dallas Green's song, and his slightly folksy vibe is very reminiscent of The Avett Brothers. Overall, Kingston proved that a stripped down, simple set does not automatically make for a dull or uninteresting set, and The Dance Cave's smaller, more intimate setup made me feel as if Kingston was singing to the audience, not at them.
Ivy James reminded me of Vanessa Carlton in the best way possible, with a repertoire of songs about topics ranging from love to loneliness. Her song "Come Home", which James explained was the first song she ever wrote, was one of the best of the night; with her guitar playing talent and pop punk-ish intonation of the lyrics, it was almost as if I was hearing Simple Plan and Ingrid Michaelson rolled into one - not something I thought I would ever say, but definitely not a bad thing. "Let It Go" allowed James to show off her vocal range - while the high notes she had to hit during the chorus were noticeably softer and less powerful than the verse's lower notes, she still hit every single one. Another highlight of James' set was the driving, harsher sounding "Ghost", written about a past love and containing a lower-pitched, bass-y sounding bridge.
This was Nathan Nasby's first time playing in Toronto, and he did not disappoint. His softer-sounding, higher-pitched voice was a pleasant surprise, as his more rugged appearance left me expecting to hear something along the lines of a Gavin DeGraw or a Rob Thomas. The straightforward guitar playing from Nasby was complimented well by the twangy, finger-picking style of back up performer Robbie Hancock, who also supplied vocal harmonies for some of the songs. Though the harmonies were nice, I would have liked to hear them more clearly; Nasby's voice often overpowered Hancock's to the point where Hancock's voice was barely noticeable. Kudos to both Nasby and Hancock for being able to concentrate and power through their set despite the sound of drums and guitar leaking in from downstairs. The ending of a couple of Nasby's songs, specifically "Say Those Words" and "Field of Dreams", sounded a bit abrupt and unresolved, but overall his self-assured stage presence and relaxed, laid-back vocal performance were very enjoyable to watch and listen to.