Starting off the night at the MTS Center was Burlington, Ontario’s Tebey. A songwriter, Tebey has written songs for the likes of Doc Walker, Emerson Drive, Big & Rich, and Tim McGraw, but recently has decided to step up to the mic and sing his own tunes. Tebey did an entertaining 3 song set including his current radio hit, Somewhere in the Country, to warm up the crowd before Aaron Pritchett, Doc Walker and Emerson Drive.
A person could wonder if the guys would be tired after back to back shows and driving through the horrible Canadian winter weather, including an 11 hr drive from Saskatoon’s sold out show the night before, but all concerns were quickly put to rest when the lights went out and blasting through the sound system was the late Stompin Tom Connor’s famous The Hockey Song. As the crowd sang along to the parts they knew, the band entered the stage in the dark. The crowd was buzzing knowing that Pritchett would be on stage shortly for his 5 song set. No sooner did the song end, than the band started in with Let’s Get Rowdy, and the always smiling Pritchett hit the stage -which had the crowd on their feet, singing and dancing, ready to get ‘rowdy’ with Aaron. With the crowd already cheering for his songs – Aaron quickly donned a Winnipeg Jets jersey sitting by the drum kit, already smiling in anticipation of the crowd erupting into louder cheers and whistles as his support of their beloved Jets.
Pritchett picked up his guitar to sing fan favourites New Frontier and Big Wheel, before introducing his new song, Suntan City that will be hitting radio air waves soon. At one point, Aaron ‘found’ a Lets Get Rowdy t-shirt on the stage, picked it up, wiped his sweaty forehead with it, and laughingly tossed it back into the crowd for some lucky fans to fight over. Then Pritchett told us how the next song was for those ‘big Manitoba boys’ that would gladly defend their girl’s honor.
Giving shoutouts to Dauphin’s Countryfest (to a huge roar from the crowd), The Red River Ex and Winnipeg Country station QX104 for having Country fans that support the song, Aaron started into Hold My Beer. This had the already standing crowd singing along and holding their beers high to show their love and appreciation of the song. Saying thanks and giving a quick wave, Aaron’s set was done and left the crowd wondering who the next act would be, Emerson Drive or hometown boys Doc Walker?
Without letting the crowd settle down into their seats for a set change (which we loved), out came the boys of Emerson Drive. I must say they have come a long way since the last time I saw them in a small bar about 10 years ago. They sounded great from start to finish of their 45 min set including hits like Moments, Good Man, I Should be Sleeping, Countrified Soul, and their most recently released She’s My Kinda Crazy. Lead singer Brad Mates, fiddle player Dave Pichette and guitar player Danick Dupelle made their way around the entire stage, making fans from all over the arena feel like they were a part of the show. During one of their most famous hits Fall into Me, Brad stopped to explain that there has been a competition going on between Danick and drummer Mike Melancon for who can sing the famous “baby” portion of the song the best. He allowed both band members to sing their part with the crowd being the judge of who won. Both guys did a great job but the crowd crowned Danick the winner of the night’s competition. You can tell that the band loves what they do and sing their songs with an intensity that makes you feel what they are singing. The crowd remained standing and singing along to Emerson Drive throughout the set. It felt like they had just hit the stage and it was already time for them to exit! After thanking the crowd with smiles from all of the guys, they exited allowing the crowd to get excited for the hometown Doc Walker.
Again with no time for the crowd to catch their breath, Doc Walker hit the stage with the biggest of smiles. I bet that had something to do with being back at home and playing the MTS Centre. I have always been a fan of Doc Walker and couldn’t wait to sing along with the guys. I don’t think lead singer Chris Thorsteinson stopped smiling for most of their 40 min set. Soaking it all in and looking into the crowd to see familiar faces singing along to their songs. Changing the lyrics to North Dakota Boy from “North Dakota boy in Tennessee’ to ‘Manitoba Boy” had the crowd cheering and wanting more. There was no need to encourage the crowd to sing along as they were already standing and singing along for the majority of the set. At one point before playing Get Up, Chris told everyone who was still sitting down to “Get Up”, to which the crowd obeyed and stood up. I love the sound of Dave Wasyliw’s voice when he sings a solo, even if it was to Beyonce’s Crazy in Love tonight! The guys sounded as great as I remember them sounding and put on a great show.
Before I knew it, they were thanking everyone for coming, and leaving the stage. The lights went out and the crowd got loud. After a couple minutes Mike Melancon, drummer for Emerson Drive and Stephen Broadhurst, drummer for Doc Walker returned to the stage for a “drum off”. They got the crowd cheering and stood up for a bow before the rest of the guys returned to sing Let It Roll. It was crazy to see so many band members on stage jamming out to the song! It sounded just as great live as it did on the radio or CD. They welcome Aaron back to the stage to do a great version of The Weight that allowed all of them to sing a part of the song. Closing the show was Doc Walker and Emerson Drive doing an amazing version of Coldplay’s Viva La Vida. A song I normally don’t like but hearing these guys do it made me like it a lot more.
The night flew by so fast but I could have stayed there longer to listen, dance and sing along. I can’t wait to be able to take in any one of their shows again.
Emerson Drive/Doc Walker Drum battle:
My rating: 9/10
©nightMair Creative 2013 all rights reserved. All photos by Michelle Fayant