54-40 Live Commodore Ballroom -I Go Blind, courtesy of J.Chutter
Living in the same city as 54-40 lives in, of course I’m familiar with their music, but in all the years I’ve heard them on the local radio stations I hate to admit I’ve never been to one of their concerts. And I don’t know why. I’ve missed a whole lot of great music and excellent performances, if the show the other night was any indication.
We had a table reserved near the dance floor with a decent view of the stage, and over appetizers listened to the two opening acts, both of which were good enough to inspire people to get up and dance. A short intermission to fine tune the band’s gear and suddenly the entire tone of the venue changed. People were no longer milling about, but finding their way onto the dance floor for a choice spot, and 54-40 was being introduced by the house M.C. as they found their way out to the stage front. What struck me immediately was that the introduction was without the typical fanfare / hype that accompanies most rock bands of their longevity and popularity… no massively flashing lights, no huge musical buildup etc; just four musicians coming out to play their songs.
Starting off the evening with a new song called The Chant, the band interspersed some of its best hits with five new songs off their latest album, Northern Soul. Obvious crowd pleasers were I Go Blind, One Day in Your Life, Ocean Pearl, One Gun, and my personal favorite, Casual Viewing, but the new songs were well received as well with many singing along at the top of their lungs.
About half way into the set, singer Neil Osborne introduced the band, including keyboardist/guitarist Tom Hooper (formerly of Grapes of Wrath) who has temporarily joined 54-40’s tour. At this point, drummer Matt Johnson and bassist Brad Merritt left the stage, and Neil, Dave Genn and Tom Hooper pulled up stools and performed an acoustic set; giving Neil Osborne a chance to showcase his amazing vocal range – transitioning from rock to folk/blues smoothly and convincingly.
A few songs later, and Neil introduced another new song (who’s title I didn’t catch) prefacing it by telling the audience that the band jointly sponsor’s two children through World Vision (and has done so for some time), and that had partly inspired the writing of this particular song. (As well, the merchandise booth had World Vision literature and if you sponsored a child that night, you received a free Northern Soul cd). At one point, Dave Genn switched his guitar for a banjo, a harmonica made it’s way into the set and people in the audience stood swaying with their sweethearts for the remainder of the acoustic set.
The full band came back for a strong finish, and the encore featured Northern Soul, the title track off their new album, with Coral, lead singer of opening band Heathers (and also Osborne’s daughter), lending her voice on vocals. All in all, the concert was a rockin’ bash that I thoroughly enjoyed, and now I can say I’ve finally seen 54-40 live!
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