Perennial favorites 54-40 live shows are always ‘good’, but the last few times we’ve seen them, good wasn’t ‘great’ and the band seemed to be uninspired despite their massive catalog of hits and gems… something is different and its ‘fantastic’!
Billed as an acoustic show, the Kamloops performance was in a sit down theatre with a very minimalistic stage set up — a row of acoustic guitars, a stripped down drum kit, and a black shiny piano set near the rear of the stage. Lighting was minimal also – just enough light used for what we needed to see, changing colour according to the feel of each song. The band stepped out onto the stage with a wave and a ‘howdy’ from front man Neil Osborne and so began an evening of songs and tales.
As the evening progressed, and audience and band warmed up to each other, Osborne would toss out the occasional joke about the band or another band member, and the feel was camaraderie — a sharing of a moment in time that we all connected with. At one point, Osborne told a longish story about the band’s touring days in Russia, and then deadpanned, “this means I’ll have to cut out a song so we don’t go over time. Maybe we’ll have to skip Ocean Pearl,” to which the audience (mock) booed and loudly vocalized how much they ‘had’ to do this song of all songs!
The band played quite a few new songs as well, with guitarist Dave Genn telling us they were going to ‘road test’ the new ones on us, before heading back to sit at the piano to play. Drummer Matt Johnston was visible to the audience for the entire night (for the first time) playing his pared down kit standing up! Osborne joked about how Johnston’s right leg was going to be longer than his left by the end of the tour! Bassist Brad Merritt was over in his own little zone (as he always is) but tonight he was smiling at the audience, making the odd snappy comeback to Osborne’s teasing, and dancing up a storm! Especially to the new songs — which brings us to the sense we got from tonight’s show — the band is renewed, refreshed, inspired, energized! It shows like the smiles on their faces and the dancing feet, and the audience felt it as well.. evidenced by the singalongs, the loud and lingering clapping and cheering and the standing ovation between set end and encore. There is an excitement the band has/feels about the new material that is infectious, and having Osborne describe how some of the new songs came to be, really helped (for me) to connect with them on a more personal level. All in all the evening was a smash success for the band, and a whole lot of fun for the audience. And yes! They sang Ocean Pearl. Look for the new album early spring 2015.
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