Australian musical force Tones and I stormed The Wiltern on Wednesday night for her Madhouse North American Tour. Her Welcome to the Madhouse debut album was the most-streamed female album on Spotify in 2021 followed only by Olivia Rodrigo and it currently sits on Spotify’s most-streamed female albums of the decade list at #7 among artists like Dua Lipa, Rodrigo, Doja Cat, Halsey, Ariana Grande and Ava Max. Tones and I (real name Toni Watson) sang her heart out so much with barely a break in her 75-minute set that she ultimately had to cancel tonight’s San Diego show due to doctor’s orders with her voice being completely out of commission. Fan heartbreak and vocal chords aside, Tones was joined by fellow Australian singer Sam Fischer as the show opener.
Soul-pop singer-singer Sam Fischer impressed with strong vocals out the gate on “Hopeless Romantic”, dancing on stage and soaring on some big notes. “Oh my god, it is so good to be here, this is our first show in LA in three years”, said Fischer, who also mentioned he and the musicians all live in town. Deeper tones of Fischer’s voice were front and center on “Simple”, with the guitarist and drummer rocking out while Fischer’s wife Erin sounded solid, harmonizing with the crooner who kicked the air while dancing it out. Fischer talked about a song he wrote a few years back called “I Got To Live”, which he admitted took on a new meaning after the past two and a half years, with Fischer saying it “became about being grateful to be alive and to share songs again”. Fischer taught the crowd the “oh-ohs” on the inspiring guitar-strummed song, singing passionately and banging his chest at the end followed by big runs. “For Now” found the singer seated center stage with his guitarist of 10 years playing acoustic, while Sam unloaded a gorgeous falsetto and a powerful, passionate head voice by the song’s closing.
Sam Fischer mentioned he was doing a cover of “the best vocalist of all time” and sang an acoustic version of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, emoting the heartbreak wonderfully. The falsetto was magic once again and he stood up for the “somebody / who!” portion, getting the crowd involved, followed by more high notes and incredible runs. He clearly loved the applause and gestured in a whimsical way to the fans for more, and they gave it to him. Fischer’s 2021 duet “What Other People Say” with Demi Lovato was performed alongside Erin, following Fischer’s intro asking fans, “On three, can we all scream fuck what other people say?!” He continued with new single “All My Loving”, a really uplifting, lively pop song, at one point getting on his knees for that extra punch. Fischer wrapped with a song that he says changed his life, “I wrote this at a time when I wanted to quit music”. He mentioned writing “The City” back in 2016 and added, “During the pandemic, it really took off and people found a lot of safety in it. It reminded me why I love doing this. I wrote it in West Hollywood. This is the first time since it really took off that I’ve been able to perform it in LA”. “The City” had strong head vocals and falsetto, with twinkling purple and orange lights overhead, sounding timeless and truly resonating with the room.
Tones and I had a Tim Burton-eque giant house set with moody lighting, setting the stage for a lot of showmanship, with Tones dressed in a pink padded jacket, a green animal print shirt underneath and a cap. She danced to her “Never Seen The Rain”, with hands up from the crowd while the green lights blinked. “Thank you so much Los Angeles”, and Tones did a little back leg kick in celebration. The trappy sounds of “Bad Child” set the “tone” for Tones, swinging her blonde hair like a mad woman before starting her vocals. She showcased her raspy timbre in the best way, giving fans great stage presence and mentioning that she wrote the tune about her childhood.
Newer song “Eyes Don’t Lie” was the first incredible moment of the night, with a true rock texture in Tones and I’s voice, hitting powerfully on the infectious “mm di dum di” tune. Another sensational moment was dance-pop tune “Cloudy Day”, with the stage flashing in purple and pink hues as The Wiltern went wild, with fans throwing their hands up, clapping along and dancing to this uplifting bop.
Tones threw a pink frisbee out to fans because stuffed teddys didn’t seem to work in the past and she played the brand new dance-pop song “Charlie”, joined by a rather lively guitarist Eren Cannata. Cannata seemed to have popped out of nowehere for the funky single, in a colorful jacket, getting the crowd amped up while Tones’ voice shined. The house went green for the heartfelt “Lonely” which is a ballad with a bounce, showcasing an amazing vocal and big belted moments that earned screams from the crowd.
Tones and I headed up to the top of the house set on a lofted stage area when a recording shared a bit with her fans about her journey, saying, “So I’ve been writing and making music for my whole life”, said Tones. “I remember busking. I’d like to take you back to a time where it was just me and my keyboard playing music in the street”. Tones spoke live saying, “I was a street performer who lived in my car”. An unexpected Outkast “Hey Ya” cover was next, with the melody driven by piano, offering a soulful, ballad-like version of the hit song. She mentioned playing Mr Hudson’s “Young Forever” for many years on the street and performed it with a danceable, tribal-sounding arrangement and wiped her tears off her face by the end, clearly moved at playing for fans at the iconic LA venue.
She told a story about a song she wrote about LA called “Ur So F***inG cOoL” about joining her friend for a pool party where her friend wore no makeup —because it’s a pool party! Girls were making fun of her friend and Tones said the very next day she went into the studio to write this very real song. Tones posed with her microphone in hand for the dramatic Gen-Z anthem “The Kids Are Coming”, throwing out another frisbee which ended up in the hands of her guitarist Cannata (now in the crowd) and she spun around while dancing, egging her fans on and getting them to jump. The mid-tempo “Johnny Run Away” about Tones’ best friend was next followed by a moment of Rihanna’s “Diamonds”, with lights all over the stage.
The quality to Tones’ voice was particularly special on global hit “Dance Monkey”, with the stage glowing in purple and green and the fans grooved along with enthusiasm. An audio clip played of a male voice talking about light and being liberated from our own fears, something that seems to be a theme in Tones and I’s music. The whole place was singing along, dancing and clapping during the pop smash “Fly Away”, with a noticeable hint of gospel, which took on an anthemic quality, like much of her upbeat music.
Words by Michael Menachem
Photos by Victoria Smith