Every once in awhile, a show comes to the Savoy that a reviewer knows before evening’s end will be one that a paragraph or two will hardly do justice. The recent stop by one of Canada’s most enduring and endearing bands is one such concert. Blue Rodeo delivered a flawless couple of hours to a crowd that raced to the box office the moment word escaped of this last minute addition to their current tour. With a new monitor system donated by Crazy Crazy, the Savoy also made it possible to stroll to the bar and not miss a moment of the action on stage.
But before the much-anticipated headliners, the audience were treated to the laid-back original sounds of Joel Plaskett, who drove down from Halifax to take the stage. Judging by the mixed reaction during intermission, not everyone was open to his style but I think it’s safe to say the majority were quite impressed by Plaskett’s ability when it comes to constructing a catchy string of lyrics out of everyday happenings in life. Many of his selections were found amusing, for instance “Lying on a Beach in the Sun/Life of a Working Stiff”. On his first appearance at the Savoy, Plaskett introduced many to songs from In Need of Medical Attention and Down at the Kyber. He even had them join in on the familiar “True Patriot Love”. Though usually supported by band-mates as part of the Joel Plaskett Emergency, Thursday evening found him flying solo, a feat I feel should be applauded on its own, given the hype surrounding the night. Considering Halifax brought out Bruce Guthro to get things rolling, Joel Plaskett can count himself among a select company of opening acts. He gets full marks from me for the courage to take on the task.
I have seen Blue Rodeo several times over the years and they are as fresh in 2002 as in those early days that I recall in Ontario. They simply come out on stage without any fanfare and sort of say to an audience, “This is who we are, take it or leave it”. No need for any introduction, just five guys who have perfected the art of playing their stuff, only improving its delivery over the past fifteen years. It is a pure, original sound, instantly recognizable as is both the band name and those of the principle leads, Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor.
On this night it is one unforgettable hit after another, from “Rose Coloured Glasses” to “Bad Timing” and the fabulous “Bulletproof”. With both leads taking turns in the solo spot, Keelor on the haunting “Motherless Son” and Cuddy with “Try”, screams, shouts, and applause could be heard to start and finish the music. And speaking of accompaniment, besides the remaining members, Bazil Donovan / bass, James Gray / keyboards, and Glenn Milchem / drums, the band was joined by a knockout four-piece horn section that certainly added a new dimension to an already tight ensemble.
A truly inspiring show and surely to be a highlight in the Savoy’s scrapbook of events marking the 75th Anniversary Celebrations!