MONA - The Virgin Mobile Mod Club, Toronto - February 25th, 2012

Review by Mike Bax
Photos by Yves Lepage

This week, Nashville, Tennessee four-piece Mona will appear on both David Letterman and Conan O'Brien, playing their North American debut lead single 'Lean Into The Fall'. While their debut album has been available almost EVERYWHERE else in the world, the North American release is this Tuesday, February 28th. The UK buzz on the band has peaked my attention for months now, and I've had their Mod Club show circled on my calendar since the day it was announced.

Mona played to a relatively thin crowd on this evening, which I found genuinely surprising. Toronto music fans are usually one step ahead of the curve regarding up and coming bands, and in my mind I just assumed this show would be at capacity as Mona are CERTAINLY going to be a going concern. Not that Mona really minded all that much. They were all in the crowd clapping their hands as New York's The Rassle opened up for them, cheering their touring mates along every step of the way.

Lead singer Nick Brown told the crowd during 'Teenagers' that they'd played to as little as nine people and as many as ninety thousand over the past year, and so long as the crowd sang along with them and had fun during their performance they would remain content. Shortly after this comment, the band managed to elicit a full-on harmonizing crescendo to the song with everyone in the venue howling back the harmony to 'Teenagers', a song that they'd likely not even heard before. It was a fantastic musical moment to behold.

Nick Brown looks like a man comprised of 33% Springsteen, Strummer, and Johnny Cash. He wore a v-necked white T-shirt and jeans and throughout the evenings performance literally wrenched some of his guitar solos out of a classic looking six-string electric guitar. Together with bassist Zach Lindsey and guitarist Jordan Young, the three of them utilized white spiral coiled guitar cables as they all bounced about the stage in front of drummer Vince Gard, and delivered what I considered to be a world class performance of material to a lucky crowd of patrons.
In the months to come, the 'cop-out’ musical comparison that Mona will take will be to Kings Of Leon. 'Say You Will' resonates with many similarities to some of the Kings more commercial material, but the real meat on their debut can be found in songs like 'Shooting the Moon', 'Lean Into the Fall', 'Lines In The Sand'  and 'Teenager'.

Brown fell to his knees on stage and rolled onto his back to sing the intro notes to 'Shooting the Moon' before jumping back to his feet to levy some of the most blistering guitar work of the evening as the song reached it's apex.

For their eighth and final song of their main set of material, Brown howled the lyrics to 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' before merging into 'Lean Into the Fall', capping off an incendiary 45 minutes of live music. The lights dimmed after 'Lean Into the Fall' and I figured the evening was over - cut short by a sparse crowd on a Saturday night combined with a strict 10pm curfew (the Mod Club wanted it's dance club crowd from 10pm onwards). To everyone’s surprise, Mona came back on stage and announced that this evening was actually the end of their tour. They threw kudos to both The Rassle and Gentleman Husbands before delivering a killer cover of 'Zombie' by The Cranberries that was worth the price of admission alone.

Mona has been hand-picked by Noel Gallagher to open his US tour dates in March and April. Their debut album is most excellent - take the time to check it out once it sees a release this coming Tuesday.

I seldom get to see live shows like this. Tickets for this show were a paltry $12.50, and Mona’s performance was easily worth four times this amount. I'd entered the venue knowing very little about the band. I'd only heard the four songs on the advance Mona EP that is commercially available here in Canada. I was hoping for a good live show, and left the venue thinking I'd seen something phenomianal.

Now, I can't wait until they come back and play live in Toronto again.

The Tally
Lines in the Sand
Shooting the Moon
Say You Will
Listen to Your Love
(Can't Take My Eyes Off You) Lean Into the Fall

Zombie (Cranberries cover)