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Iconic Russian band DDT makes rare Toronto stop

Posted by Guest Contributor / January 27, 2013

DDT Russian BandA huge crowd of fans filled the Toronto Centre for the Arts on the 25th of January to see Russian rock and roll icon DDT. It's not the first time DDT has performed in Toronto, but it's certainly been a while; they last rolled through town a decade ago.

DDT first rose to prominence in the early 1980s. As was the case with most Russian rock artists of the time, Yuri Shevchuk — the band's front man — became popular by protesting government politics, speaking out for human rights, and criticizing the economic conditions in his home country.

DDT Russian Band Live TorontoIn Russia, DDT was once an almost ubiquitous presence (and still remain popular to this day). One would hear songs from any one of the band's 20 albums (not including the five live collections) just about anywhere, and they enjoyed praise from both critics and fans alike.

More recently the band has suffered for Shevchuk's outspoken criticism of Vladimir Putin and the Russian government. They were also one of the voices who demanded that Pussy Riot be set free. Now DDT concerts are officially banned in several cities, and they can't promote themselves on TV or radio.

DDTSome band members decided to call it quits based on these restrictions and even Shevchuk took a short break from recording and performing. But he's come back and rounded up new faces for the "Unplugged" ("Solnik") tour that brought through Toronto.

DDT band"The main objective of this set is to create tension between music, words, video art and light," says Shevchuk. DDT is now an 8-man band, made up of guitar, bass guitar, two horn players, drums, keyboards, lead singer and backing vocals.

That's the context. So how was the show?

Throughout the upbeat and lengthy performance, Shevchuk would interrupt songs to read his poems, most of which whimsically reflected on the meaning of life, freedom and history. While these pauses were totally unpredictable, they actually added an element of interest to the set that you don't get at most concerts.

DDT band RussianSet to an impressive light show, the night wasn't short on political protest. Amidst the rocking and dancing, band members would sit down on the drumset and attack Russian political parties. It was both entertaining and inspiring to see such passion.

The concert lasted for two hours, at which point the musicians were given a standing ovation. The crowd refused to leave the building, screaming for an encore. Naturally DDT returned to the stage, but this was no ordinary encore. They played for another 45 minutes! That's a whole set for many bands.

Here's a fun-fact. For the past three years Shevchuk has refused to sing one of his most famous songs — 'Osen' (Autumn). But he must have really liked the crowd gathered in Toronto, because he decided to bring the song out of retirement on Friday.

It was one of a number of highlights from a spectacular performance.

Additional Photos

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Irina / January 27, 2013 at 03:26 pm
Great reportage! Thank you Irina and Lina!
Nadin / January 27, 2013 at 03:41 pm
They really ROCK!!!
Would be very interesting to hear an opinion from non russian-speaking person, who was at the concert. I hope there were some.... and if not, then you guys missed a lot!!!

Thanks for the pics. Nice shoot!!!
Mike / January 27, 2013 at 04:38 pm
Russian is not my native language.But i love russian literature and culture.I am a big fan of Shevchuk.The performance was great.Shev chuk reminds me about another great russian poet and musician-Vladimir Visotsky.
But I think sound system was for a larger auditorium.
Anyway his verses ,composition and accompanymaent is
perfect.I like him as a Musician and as a Citizen. I respect russian educated people(INTELIGENTIA)for their intelligence,courage to speak the truth and still humble. Thanks for the pictures.
AJ / January 27, 2013 at 05:36 pm
Review/photos own! Wish I was there.
Alex / January 27, 2013 at 08:02 pm
Thanks you for a great write up! I heard that these guys are real ikons in Russia. If you would know about the concert before hand, I would definitely go!
Natalia / January 27, 2013 at 08:36 pm
Amazing concert, even tho I'm not a fan, still had a great time out there. Yuri Shevchuk just knows how to get the crowd going!!! Thank you Lina and Irina for the great reportage & photos.
leo / January 27, 2013 at 10:22 pm
Great photographs. The exposure is nice, despite the lack of light. And pictures are nicely sharp.
Here is mine photos to compare:
Alik / January 28, 2013 at 01:00 pm
Some video recordings of the concert:
Alik / January 28, 2013 at 01:22 pm
Some additional photos of the event
Alik replying to a comment from Alik / January 28, 2013 at 01:23 pm
Some additional photos of the event:
Maria / January 28, 2013 at 01:47 pm
Couldn't make, unfortunately :( Next time, hopefully DDT will come to Toronto again.
George Ross / January 29, 2013 at 04:59 am
Thank you for the excellent review and pictures! I could not attend the Toronto concert, but I did fly out to see DDT play in New York on Sunday (where instead of "Unplugged", they played a full-production "Otherwise" set - I wish I could've made it to both to compare!)

Just a couple of minor fact-checks:
-DDT hadn't been to Toronto (or North America) in a half-decade, not decade. They last performed in Toronto exactly 5 years to the day of this concert. Which, too, was a great show!
-The recent departures of older band members were not for political, but rather creative reasons. DDT has never been a stranger to controversy and censhorship, and the seasoned members of the previous lineup would have hardly flinched at it; rather, it was Shevchuk's enthusiastic forays into influences from genres such as industrial, progressive rock, hip-hop and metal that made some players less-than-happy with the band's musical direction. They parted on good terms, and were replaced by young musicians in their 20s to whom such modern music comes naturally.
-The restrictions faced by DDT in Russia are not official censorship and bans - but a far scarier "unofficial" censorship. In cities where their performances were cancelled, they would be given rather dubious and indirect reasons for the cancellation at the last moment, or otherwise snubbed. Likewise, Putin's personal snub of Shevchuk in 2010 at a televised reception is infamous in Russia. There have been a few efforts to smear Shevchuk or otherwise discredit the band - and it's a great thing to see them valiantly put up a fight against it, and refuse to simply be entertainers playing classic songs.
-The song Osen' is indeed a rare one for DDT in recent years, but not unprecedented. In fact, within the current tour cycle, it has been performed fairly frequented. It's more of an ongoing joke - Yuri always teases the audience for their frequent calls to play "Osen'", and the "will they or won't they?" guessing game is practically a staple of any DDT concert. Toronto audiences, however, will not have heard that song in well over a decade!
VT / January 29, 2013 at 04:14 pm
As a kind of symmetry, I drove from US/Michigan to Toronto to see DDT. I've been to many DDT concerts, two of which in last decade in US, and IMO this one was the best concert ever. There was so much positive energy in the room, and Shevchuk kept the crowd standing and dancing for last 2/3 of the concert. Toronto crowd ruled too! It was good to see 20 y.o and 60 y.o equally enthusiastic.

Shevchuk was very good 20+ years ago, and is getting seriously better with age. I think ability to move forward and try new things is a big part of it.

Lev / January 29, 2013 at 09:58 pm
Anyone remember the name of the girl who was at the concert. She sang beautifully, was hoping to find some of her stuff somewhere on internet. Thanks in advance.
Alik replying to a comment from Lev / January 29, 2013 at 11:14 pm
The girl's name is Alena Romanova. Here is a video of her performance I made on that concert:
Roman Boldyrev / January 31, 2013 at 02:01 pm
My 48 additional photos of the event:
Rifa / January 31, 2013 at 10:17 pm
Заведуем вам белой завистью....
Pavel replying to a comment from Lev / February 2, 2013 at 04:00 am
Alena Romanova
joseph nikulin / February 2, 2013 at 01:03 pm
I went DDT concert in Boston.I am 62 yo.One of my best time I have for lust 20 years.Go Yura
Roman Boldyrev / February 3, 2013 at 10:23 am
Eight videos (HD 1080p) of the event.
Youtube playlist:
Irina No / February 3, 2013 at 02:53 pm
Thanks to everyone who "liked" this article or posted a comment!
It`s really nice to hear such pleasant reviews!
Leo, Alik, Roman, thank you for the additional photos and videos! They are just great!
Best wishes,
Other Cities: Montreal