It was an old-fashioned family affair on Friday night at the intimate Rio Theatre. Hamilton’s Tom Wilson played in his figurative child, band Lee Harvey Osmond. The set was opened by his literal child who also played bass and backed up his father vocally in the band. It was a fantastic night of watching generational songwriters open their hearts and lives up to a thrilled audience.
Son Thompson Wilson opened with nothing but an acoustic guitar and his voice. He has an excellent voice that goes with his stripped down, comfortable, almost campfire rock. He didn’t need a band as he shared a song written from his girlfriend’s journal (or diary as the story goes) or a “WTF?” song to an ex-band member. It was personal and impressive; catchy, thoughtful and very well written. He clearly got the songwriting gene from his dad, along with the elder Wilson’s amiable stage presence.
Lee Harvey Osmond came out acoustic as well, and gradually the band became full and so did the sound. Jesse OBrien, a talented pianist, and long time drummer Ray Farrugia joined the Wilsons and they almost instantly get the seemingly calm crowd up and dancing. Between songs, Tom shares his life, his pain, and his journey with an openness that most friends don’t share. He reads a poem about finding out that he was adopted, and has a Mohawk father, and Native/French mother and suddenly goes from being an only child to having 9 brothers and sisters, and easily shares stories from his eclectic childhood.
Lee Harvey Osmond played an incredible variety of songs – from an homage to a recently passed friend to classics from previous incarnations (Junkhouse‘s “Shine” was a crowd favourite) to the latest album “Beautiful Scars.” It was a great night for fans of songwriting; Tom Wilson has always had a Canada’s Bruce Springsteen feel about him. (That’s a compliment, Tom.) His baritone rumbles along with depth and passion through the beautiful scars of Tom’s own life.
It was also an interesting night to watch and compare father and son. Thompson Wilson seems to realize what a unique and amazing opportunity he has; playing alongside his father – let alone who his father is. Tom seems enamored with the chance to play with his son. They have a similar stage presence, but quite different voices. They alternated echoing and harmonizing, reacting to each other and having fun. It was a unique experience for a fan, as well.
Overall, it was a night of heartfelt songs, penned and performed by some of the best in the business. The Rio was intimate and the artists were more so. The Wilsons invited us into their worlds, their lives, their families. It was a family affair and the crowd was part of the extended family. So thanks to Cousin Thompson and Uncle Tom Wilson and the rest of the Lee Harvey Osmond clan for a great reunion. Let’s do it every year!
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written by Chris van Staalduinen