Take five with... Dan Kanter: My favourite Canadian music venues

Take five with... Dan Kanter: My favourite Canadian music venues

He knows better than anyone what it’s like to perform in front of a screaming crowd: Dan Kanter is one of the people who helped take Justin Bieber from small-town singer to pop superstardom.

That’s why young hopefuls auditioning for The Next Star (Mondays, YTV) are lucky to see him on the judges’ panel this season. Justin’s guitarist and musical director has played with artists like Stevie Wonder, Drake and Usher.

Unfazed by his star-studded experiences, Dan tells Hello! he can't wait to discover Canada’s next rising star. “I enjoy working with kids so it’s been such a pleasure so far,” he says. “I’m really excited to bring all the experience that I’m so fortunate to have had back to the show.”

On a break from coaching the contestants, we asked Dan – a self-described “concert addict” – to name his five favourite music venues across Canada.

Photo courtesy of The Next Star


My favourite venue in the world is Massey Hall. I’ve seen some amazing shows there, particularly Neil Young and Eddie Vedder. It was also where I played my favourite show ever with Justin Bieber. It was a Christmas concert in 2011. Justin had always wanted to play at Massey Hall and he knew it was a dream of mine. We decided to do this one-off show in Toronto called Home for the Holidays. It was acoustic and without a set list. Justin told stories and took fan requests. We just went onstage and he told me what song he wanted to play. It was nerve-wracking because I had to know every single song that he knows how to sing, but I really enjoyed that. For his big arena shows, his set list doesn’t change, so it was really important for him to do that. It really made me proud to see him in a small venue. I always tell the Next Star kids that wherever they’re performing, it’s all about connecting with the audience. Whether that’s the studio audience, or the one at home, they should always imagine being in a sold-out venue and performing for the kid in the last row.


I grew up in Ottawa and I’m a huge Ottawa Senators fan. I saw all of my first arena rock concerts at the Canadian Tire Centre, so I dreamed of being a musician and performing there. When I played there with Justin, it was so special to have all of my family and friends come out. One of the most exciting early shows I saw at the venue when I was growing up was Alanis Morissette on her Jagged Little Pill tour. She’s from Ottawa, so it was an extra-special show.


I performed at the Bell Centre in Montreal twice with Justin. And believe it or not, it is the loudest audience in the world. We have a decibel meter on our soundboards that measures the audience, and on both our My World and Believe tours Montreal’s was the loudest. It’s always great to go there to play. Everyone in our crew always chats with the fans in every city, and there’s something about Montreal.


It’s really cool to see a band in a huge arena. And it’s even better to play in a huge arena. But I love a club. I’ve played at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver and it was awesome. In a stadium you really have to work so hard to reach the person in the back row. In a club, they’re right there. A band can’t hide behind all the bells and whistles in a smaller venue. There are no huge lights and explosions, the music has to do the talking. The Commodore Ballroom is famous for it’s bouncy floor. I was onstage, but apparently when a band is really in a groove and everybody’s really into it, [the audience] can actually feel the floor moving up and down.


My family fishes out in New Brunswick, where we have a cottage. I spend a lot of time out there. I saw U2 and Arcade Fire together at Magnetic Hill in Moncton, and it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. Apparently, if you park your car on the hill, there’s a magnetic field that will cause it to move. It’s pretty crazy. It felt like the entire East Coast came to Moncton for that concert. I really love the East Coast of Canada. It’s always special to be there, but seeing such an amazing show with my wife made it even more special.

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