Chad Brownlee When the Lights Go Down Tour
Commodore Ballroom Vancouver
written by Rob A. Fillo
The scent of street meats sizzling with a hint of urine and despair, the familiar smell of Downtown greets me as I rise from the subway tunnels. The stumbling masses are a clear indication that the bars are doing very good business this, Thursday, night. I head towards the Commodore Ballroom, passing through the hum and vigour of booze addled merriment. A beautiful and very intoxicated female attempts to clumsily communicate her contact info to an equally inebriated male. As I observe the modern courting rituals I am filled with a mix of heart tickling delight and slight twinge of disgust. None the less, I’m excited for the show tonight.
The crowd is set to full steam ahead, as I climb the Commodore’s carpeted steps. The first thing I notice is the amazing care the female patrons have put into their ensembles, the makeup, the low cut blouses, the designer accessories. In the same place, the males at the event have made sure to dress in their farmer’s Wranglers and their finest plaid chemises. The blue jean quota at this country event is not as high as I have expected, but Chad Brownlee makes up for the lack of reinforced cotton with his full denim getup. The sound mix is loud and I note the slight pain in my ears as the vocals blare thorough the space above the crowd with an alarming high frequency boost, negating Brownlee’s trademark vocal warmth. I press on through the crowd to the front left of the stage for a closer look.
The band is well groomed and very well rehearsed. They don’t miss a single beat and hit all their cues with laser perfection. I get a strong sense that this group has been well seasoned by the previous tour dates. The ‘When the Lights Go Dow’, tour has been a huge success in supporting Chad Brownlee’s record, The Fighters, and the momentum of the tour and Chad’s growing popularity is apparent as the crowd is in good attendance and electrified. There is no lack of support tonight and the large group of fans knows every single word to every single song. Though a lot of the songs sound formulaic of the country-rock genre, there is an obvious essence of sincerity in the performance.
Near the centre point of the show, Brownlee dismisses his band to take centre stage solo acoustic. It’s a touching presentation of crowd interaction and he makes known his heartfelt appreciation for attendees. Following this short lull in intensity, the crowd is brought to attention again with hit song Where the Party At. Again, I am so impressed with the fan base. Their dedication to Brownlee is so obvious it’s impossible to deny. All eyes are on him and all hearts are clearly with him, as he continues to pound out tunes of varying intensity one after another in fast succession. For a special number, a lovely volunteer is lifted to the stage and serenaded by a sweet love song. Then a touching rendition of Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud further woos the crowd into sensual submission.
The concert was what I would call, commercially viable with clear record label influnce. Brownlee and his ultra-tight band of musicians fired out hits like bullets, one after another. The songs spanned all three of his albums and left very few tracks out. Chad’s music is not strikingly original or experimental but what it lacks in musical evolution, it makes up for with a wholesome and welcoming familiarity. The twang in his country-style vocals wax and wane depending on the song and there is a lack of old country-music authenticity (see Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris.) That said, I don’t think that’s what Brownlee is going for. The man delivers calculated, timeless, country-rock radio singles and does it well. He writes songs for his fans to relate to and sing along with and they do.
The bulk of the concert was decent and enjoyable. However, after returning to the stage for an encore, the party really kicked off. At this point, Brownlee and band seemed to shake off the technical clockwork of their hit factory setlist and really have some fun. The energy in the room hit nuclear fission level as the group did an amazing performance of Katy Perry’s Roar. I am not a pop music guy, it’s just not who I am, but the way they performed this piece of music blew my socks off. The power and sound far surpassed Perry’s recorded version and the fun and excitement in the Commodore was absolutely ecstatic. Following that number, the opening acts, Jess Moskaluke and Bobby Wills, joined Brownlee in donning cheap funky shades and performing a fantastic version of Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk. The artists traded off lyrics and danced to choreographed sequences and the crowd was absolutely elated, as was I.
Chad Brownlee is an all-around great performer. He has country-rock songwriting down to a science and the ability to win fans internationally. Is he a deep and spiritual poet the likes of Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan? The jury is still out on that verdict. However, there is no doubt that he is a talented, charming and caring individual. His specially made Sherwood hockey stick guitar, used live on this tour, is currently being auctioned off on his website. All proceeds will be donated to the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation. If that’s not enough information to get you to check out Chad Brownlee, let me mention he was a professional hockey player drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in 2003. The man, the musician, the enigma… Chad Brownlee.
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