Tirelessly touring takes its toll on everyone after a point. Everyone, that is, except Tomas Kalnoky. When you measure up the amount of spirit that he brings to his solo sets, it’s hard to imagine that he’s anywhere other than his peak.
Starting the night off accompanied by nothing other than a projection of a bundle of logs burning behind him, Kalnoky took the stage of the Aladdin Theater armed with an acoustic guitar and a smile on his face. Sitting in on a performance by his band, Streetlight Manifesto, you see an equally grateful yet much more focused show come across. There’s close to no banter between songs, the set list is torn through at a professional pace. This is not the case during a solo set by Kalnoky. Immediately after his first song he began taking requests from the audience, throwing jokes back and forth with the crowd. Even if there were a few songs he would need to quickly brush the cobwebs off of, almost every corner of his long-running discography was represented through songs both asked for and those already written into the list.
After a substantial set alone, Kalnoky called out friends and tour mates Colin Wood and David Preston to join him on the drums, keys, and upright bass, respectively. Without diving too deep into the details of the matter, he went on to explain briefly the struggle between himself and label head Tony Brummel of Victory Records. Despite his most recent offering, The Hand That Thieves (2013), being cancelled by Brummel and Victory, it found its way onto the internet and into the ears of fans. In an act of protest to the album getting killed, as well as the unreasonable lawsuit filed against Kalnoky in the messy aftermath of the entire situation, the trio played the entirety of The Hand That Thieves for the next half of the night.
Surprised and ecstatic all at the same time, the crowd left no backing vocal part unsung and no hummed substitution for a horn section unaccompanied. A truly inspiring sight to see, Kalnoky, Wood, and Preston all seemed so comfortable with the support from the crowd that it was hard not to feel like a part of the performance as a whole. Legitimately un-heckle-able, any quip shot from an attendee was met with a quick and witty response from Kalnoky, often mid-song, and never resulted in the music getting derailed at all. Laughs were shared much in the same way they would be in a tight circle of people surrounded around a warm campfire well into the night, lent to by the intimate nature of the theater itself. By the end of the evening, everyone left feeling like one big group of old, familiar friends.
To see such energy and joy in a man that’s faced a constant struggle with the heads of his label throughout more or less the span of his musical career and still manage to provide the exact kind of genuine warmth that will stick with fans through to the next time he rolls into the city.