The Headstones rock solid at the Bronson Centre

December 18th, 2022 by  |  Published in Concerts

Headstones at Bronson Centre by Aaron Kaiserman

After more than 2 years of Covid-related delays, Ottawa finally got the Headstones show they’ve been waiting for as the band took the stage two nights in a row, December 16 and 17, at the Bronson centre.

Opening with the title track off the new album, Flight Risk, and following it up with the somewhat obscure “Pinned You Down,” the band made it clear that this show was going to be heavy and loud. And despite a set full of deep tracks and newer material, (4 from the new album,) the crowd was on board and singing along full volume; Dillon frequently waved his mike over the crowd, whether from on stage or during frequent tours around the venue, always met with validation from a full-throated crowd ready to match his hard rocking energy.

The Radio Saves

The Headstones at the Bronson Centre (2022) by Aaron Kaiserman 3

It’s become pretty standard to stick a partial cover or two inside another song in a live show. And there were plenty such musical homages, including a nod to the band’s contemporaries and fellow Kingstonites, The Tragically hip. But the sense from the show was that these interstitials were not just there to please the crowd, but also done with a genuine sense of appreciation for the musical influences that helped shape the band.

Hugh Dillon sings about the salvational power of music on a number of tracks, most notably in the lyrics to “Radio Plays” off his Hugh Dillon Redemption Choir side project album from 2005. During an interstitial section of “Oh My God” featuring a snippet of Pink Floyd’s “Time,” Dillon opened up about how “the radio saved me” while describing his early years filled with drugs and rage. In characteristic Headstones fashion, it was a both poignant and energizing moment as Dillon eventually got to the closing line, “Oh my God, I’m gonna live.”

This sort of defiant perseverance was matched during fan-favourite “#$%! You,” a down

-the-middle ode to bad breakups repurposed as a middle finger to the Covid pandemic. And Ottawa was more than ready for it; after the first show on the 16th sold out, the second night was also full, with many concertgoers attending both times.

And the Hits

The Headstones at the Bronson Centre (2022) by Aaron Kaiserman 4

Hugh Dillon wading into and above the crowd

This combination of anger and pushing past the hard times with attitude describes so much Headstones music, and this made for plenty of crowd-pleasing, high energy, sing-along moments. From their signature cover of “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” to the irreverent “Cemetery,” to the fitting show closer, “Smile and Wave,” there were plenty of hits to go around. But it was during the relatively subdued and more personal classics, “When Something Stands for Nothing,” “Three Angels,” and “Cubically Contained” that the band hit that emotional sweet spot and truly brough the house down.

The Headstones Opener, Arcana Kings

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Arcana Kings at the Bronson Centre 5


Show Openers Arcana Kings proved they were a force to be reckoned with too. When lead singer Johnny McCuaig stepped on stage in a kilt and bagpipes in hand, it was a case of Chekhov’s pipes: an AC/DC song was sure to come, and the band did not disappoint with a rousing cover of “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N Roll)” / “Thunderstruck.” But Aracana Kings proved they are great songwriters and performers in their own right, most memorably during “Soldier On,” a heartfelt tribute to Canadian veterans.

The Headstones are well-loved in Ottawa, and the feeling seems mutual. Here’s to many more shows to come.

-Aaron Kaiserman


Flight Risk
Pinned You Down
Tweeter and the Monkey Man
Losing Control
Everything or Nothing at All
Headlight Holds a Deer
#$%! You
Cubically Contained
Oh My God
Leave It All Behind
Long Way to Neverland
Devil’s on Fire
Three Angels
Smile and Wave




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