Blue Rodeo played the other night to a packed and ecstatic house at the venerable Orpheum Theatre. It was a spectacular display of musicianship all night, as the band varied between soulful solos and all-out rock and roll. They expertly blended their classics with new songs and kept the crowd into it for the full two hours.
Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor are two of the most distinctive voices in Canadian music and their exquisite harmonization was on full display throughout. Birthday boy and backup vocalist Colin Cripps added to the always full sound, not to mention his excellent guitar skills. The entire band is full of true musicians and they were all in fine form, playing a variety of instruments from slide guitar to harmonica to accordion. In fact, I never thought I say the phrase “I really enjoyed that accordion solo”, but I really did. Mike Boguski made me say that and played some of the best rock piano I’ve ever heard, certainly the best I’ve seen live – particularly during the classic finale “Diamond Mine”.
Their hits “Try”, “Trust Yourself” and my personal favourite “Five Days in May” were obvious standouts, but new ones like “Superstar” and “A Thousand Arms” were also very well received. Jim explained that “A Thousand Arms” was written about a bi-polar California woman who runs a coffee shop, but needs the community to pitch in and keep it going when she’s not able to. It seems like an almost Canadian sentiment and Blue Rodeo find both sides of the story, as they seem to most times. They seem to excel at writing songs about the bittersweet side of life.
Jim and Greg seem to have aged in opposite directions, with Jim looking about 25 and Greg far at the other end of the scale. Their voices, however, have grown in the same direction – stronger, better, more powerful. Good on them for not giving in to age or health concerns – they keep on doing what they’ve always done, what they likely always will. They are artists and musicians who have something to say and they say it through their one of a kind mix of rock, country and folk.
Overall, it was a truly wonderful show, with the grandiose Orpheum and it’s classic beauty providing the perfect backdrop for a classic Canadian band. Their sound and low-key setup were perfectly complimented by the setting. The giddy crowd was treated to seven musicians plying their trade with excellence and so much more. They were treated to Canadian music legends at their best, likely for one or the last opportunities to do so. I, for one, am glad I took that opportunity.
**Of special note was opener Terra Lightfoot (no relation to Canadian treasure Gordon Lightfoot). Lightfoot is not that well known yet outside of the CBC radio hipster crowd, but she should be! Holding her own on the large stage is no small feat for any artist, but she managed to pull it off with style and humour, and the odd story about her particularly songs. Lightfoot also returned to the stage for the encore with Blue Rodeo, singing side by side and looking like she belonged there.
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written by Chris van Staalduinen
**addition by editor