I Mother Earth Rocks the Phoenix
written by Sean Grounds
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of their hit album, “Scenery and Fish”, Toronto rockers I Mother Earth reunited in their native city this weekend to play two sold out shows at The Phoenix. Lead singer Edwin left the band back in 1997 right at the end of their tour for “Scenery and Fish” and though IME stayed around for several years with replacement singer Brian Byrne, they ultimately went on hiatus in 2002. Other than a brief reunion tour, sans Edwin, in 2012 this was fans first chance to see the band back together in almost two decades. And they were pumped.
IME played “Scenery and Fish” start to finish as their main act, before returning for two extended, and very appreciated, encores. I wasn’t sure if after so long apart the band would be kind of rusty or out of sync, but that wasn’t an issue. I Mother Earth are definitely a band that enjoys playing live; they’re crazy into the music and have a strong stage presence and high energy that is infectious on the audience.
The band had a ton of fun with their material. Pretty much every song they played eventually evolved into lengthy improvisation or jamming between band mates. Guitarist, and main songwriter, Jag Tanna was particularly impressive. While the sound of his guitar in most songs is more of a deep, wet blues rock, when it comes to soloing he has some serious shredding skills. The band overall has great control with their range and can move effortlessly from the main body of their songs into the more extended jamming, letting the music go very far from its original starting point and then bringing it back just as easily, whipping into the straightahead hard rock. Overall IME has a very full sound; aside from the main unit of the band there were keyboards and secondary percussion to round it out. For someone who hasn’t seen them live before, it’s also much heavier than their albums would suggest. Even the slower, more subdued songs have a deep, rich thudding to them that keeps the energy going, even in the more low key moments.
One other thing I’d like to mention is that the stage lighting was awesome. Tons of great laser lights pulsing all different colours with the music, strobe lights flashing, as well as several panels of video screens playing trippy colours behind the band. For a show that was already so tight musically speaking and with the fans so into it, it was nice to see it all tied together with very strong stage production.
If I have any criticism it’s that at some points the vocals were a little muddled and lost in the overall sound of the band, which in one way is a shame seeing as how kinda the point of the show was the reunion with Edwin, but the majority of the time the vocals came through clearly. Not that it mattered too much anyways, as the fans were so into the show that they filled in with their own singing nearly the entire time. Not to mention there was tons of head banging, fist pumping and more than a little bit of crowd surfing. And that’s something that’s always fun to see, when a band and their audience are both as each of them want the other to be, enjoying the music together.
I Mother Earth returns to the Phoenix on June 16 for another show, before playing St Catharines, Winnipeg and Vancouver later in the year, so if you’re a fan definitely check them out.
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written by Sean Grounds