Let me be the first to say that I’m not the biggest fan of country music. Let me also say that Monday night’s performance of Jessica Mitchell and the Kiefer Sutherland Band was an absolute delight. The most striking aspect of both their performances was a refreshing sense of honesty - both in the songs they played and how they acted on stage, it truly felt genuine.
Jessica Mitchell opened the show. This was her final performance with Sutherland’s band. Mitchell brought masterful acoustic guitar picking and a powerful voice that could shake mountains. Her wide vocal range enabled her to hold extended high notes just as easily as low ones, leading to a unique sound that could not have been easily replicated.
A touching moment occurred near the end of her set, as she paid tribute to mental health issues, acknowledging her own struggles with bipolar disorder. To be so open about her life with the audience made Mitchell’s performance especially touching and intimate. During her final song, Jessica brought out the Kiefer Sutherland Band to jam with, ending her set on an energetic high note.
During the transition time of resetting the stage, the crowd at the Horseshoe Tavern packed themselves in even tighter. When the time was right, Kiefer Sutherland and his band mounted the stage. Well, perhaps exploded onto the stage would describe their entrance better. That same raw, pounding energy was maintained throughout their performance, yet refined and channeled during some of their slower songs.
Of course, this made taking pictures a difficult task. To avoid using flash in the dimly lit bar I had to turn my shutter speed way down, making the band resemble the Kiefer Sutherland Blur. The only upside to this was that it truly captured the power with which they performed. Every time the bandmembers tilted their guitars to the sky in fits of raw emotion, I couldn’t help but imagine them practicing on Guitar Hero.
Just like Jessica Mitchell, Sutherland gave the audience stories and insight into his songs including his youth with his twin sister Rachel. There were tearful embraces on the floor as his music filled the air. Kiefer Sutherland managed to include the perfect amount of rasp in his voice for the more emotional numbers – enough to capture the listeners, but not so much to overpower his smooth delivery. One fan jokingly remarked how Sutherland’s Telecaster added to his authenticity.
It was not a totally original set, either. In addition to Sutherland’s own compositions, he struck up songs by artists from Gordon Lightfoot to Bob Dylan. This created a diverse setlist with something for everyone. I only wish it could have been eight songs longer, however. That would have left it at an even 24, which would have been a fantastic reference to his hit TV show.
Cramming a room full of people on the hottest night of the summer is bound to created heated tensions. But aside from an accidentally smashed bottle and a brief verbal spat next to me, the audience was able to settle in to the music and leave their cares behind.
I came into Kiefer Sutherland’s show at the Horseshoe Tavern not knowing what to expect. I vowed to be open-minded and enjoy it the best I could, despite it not being my usual musical tastes, and I had a fantastic time. That night in Toronto was a great example of how it’s always good to try new things – you never know what you will get.