After years of covering the events of the Savoy Theatre, I have become familiar with certain patterns associated with scheduled events. I can usually predict those that will require an extra bit of press, especially something new to the area or not well-known to local audiences. Other shows need nothing more than for tickets to go on sale, and perhaps an interview to bring us up to date on a certain performer. Stuart McLean and his Vinyl Café tour belongs at the top of the latter category.
Fans of his CBC Sunday afternoon program regularly flock to hear the latest in his series of stories based on Dave, who owns a second hand record store, Dave’s wife Morley, and their kids Sam and Stephanie. The latest visit on Thursday evening, found a packed house, eagerly anticipating what McLean had cooked up for the now familiar family born of his imagination.
First and foremost is McLean’s sense of humour, so evident long before the formal and rehearsed part of the evening. “Oh I know…you guys are the ones who couldn’t get George Jones tickets,” he teased, in reference to the fact that the country legend was performing not too far away. There was light-hearted musing on SARS, and Iraq, and his vow from last winter to return to Cape Breton in the “warmth of spring.” My favourite tale of the night was McLean’s extended description of the hazards of drinking the recommended 8 glasses of water a day, especially while manoeuvring 8 lanes of 401 traffic. Simply hilarious.
But the night doesn’t stick with reading words, as McLean is joined by his band Lisa Lindo (vocals), Chris Whitely (horns and guitars), John Heard (piano) and Dennis Pendrith (bass). They opened the show with their own brand of amusement, with tunes like “Roll Out the Barrel”, “Oh Canada”, “Hockey Night In Canada” and “Farewell to Nova Scotia”. The crowd didn’t know whether to sit, stand, salute, or cheer. But it was just the right notes to put everyone at ease, which is exactly the aim of this entire production. In fact, McLean read a letter from a fan who actually thanked him for creating the perfect atmosphere for a long overdue nap. This of course was met with appropriate laughter from both host and crowd. The band is an integral part of both accompaniment and sound effects throughout the show. They also shine as soloists as well.
The Vinyl Café is an intimate evening to relax and listen to one of the country’s most beloved storytellers, with his perfect timing, and attention to detail. It?s one of my favourite evenings, and one event that practically guarantees to be a sell-out! Something to keep in mind the next time Stuart McLean takes the Café on the road.