BLUE RODEO @ MASSEY HALL TORONTO FEB 2, 2017
THE STARS ARE SHELTERED TONIGHT
written by Chris Dragon
It’s the dead of winter in this big cold city. I rush along the sidewalk on the longest street in the world, and then turn left on to Shuter Street. I’ve learned to move fast tonight. I’m in the core of Toronto. And it’s an icebox!
There she is! She’s warm to the eyes in this dark artic metropolitan core. She lays hidden in the shadows of a tall glass tower. She stands elegantly like Lauren Becall smoking cigarettes on Sunset Strip. I reach the outside doors and look upward. The marquee reads “Blue Rodeo” and a neon sign lights up her face. Her name is “Massey”.
This city turns over to evening sky and the wind blows me through her grand red doors and into the lobby. It’s cozy warm in here with that familiar energy of rock concert vibes. Plenty of people with smiles and anticipation hustle to their seats. I need something to warm me up first. Rumor has it that you can find some good Irish whiskey and vintage photography downstairs in her soul. A descending scuffle down the steps and into the basement I go. It’s pretty much a Massey museum down here. Her lovers, and all their stories are revealed on the walls. There are images, articles and posters of yesterday’s performers everywhere. I could spend hours here. But it’s now time.
Walking through the main theatre doors on the first floor, I’m met with buzz and chatter. Roy Orbison plays over the public address system. I sit eight rows back from the stage dead centre isle. I’m in bliss.
“Amazing Seats”, I’m thinking!
Vintage amps and guitars are everywhere. This is the first sign that tonight is going to be special. But I don’t pick up on that at first. The Sadies will open the night. The lights dim. They quickly march out.
In their polyester Texas looking Sunday suits, they warn the audience that, “The set will be short, we want Blue Rodeo too!”.
I’m not really sure what to expect. They break out into psych-garage-country and then throw in some honkytonk for a mind bend. I officially sign on to the band and their music. I’m sold. But there is some real guitar business still to be had. After taking a quick sip of beer that sits on the edge of his guitar amplifier, Travis rips into some heavy fast picking guitar. The crowd goes nuts. He has our attention. After a amazing set they slow down to lay out some classic country. They graciously thank the crowd for coming out and being so kind. The set is over. They are a fantastic hard working band, bringing the real deal to the stage. The dudes have some of that “cool factor” too in their act. I’m glad I didn’t miss this.
Blue Rodeo is a Canadian treasure. And Massey Hall you say? Well …she is a Canadian diamond! So I patiently wait for the chemistry to fuse together in all it’s alchemy glory. The house lights fade down and the stage scene lights fade up. Red velvet curtains, drape behind the stage as a backdrop for the band. Art deco flood lights, are propped to set the mood. It’s a very elegant feel. The familiarity rings out…. Scorsese, “The Last Waltz”.
Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy walk out across the perfectly lit stage and share one microphone, and one spotlight. The boys harmonize a pure vocal duet on “ Heart Like Mine”. After singing a few bars, the band kicks in. The Hall is filled with warm tone that only this place can deliver. The show is off. Blue Rodeo play a few cuts from the new energetic record “1000 arms”. It’s a recording that returns the band to vocal characteristics from their earlier times together. They gracefully move through 22 songs. From “Head Over Heels” to “Cynthia”. At one point the band strips down. The roadies pull up chairs, acoustic guitars and drum brushes. You get the feeling this is what it must sound (and look like), if anyone one of them, decided to have a friendly fish fry jam session in one of their kitchens.
The musical high watermark, was an incredible re-design of “Diamond Mine”. This new take on a Rodeo classic, turned the Hall into a full on show of shimmering stage lights and diamond beams cascading throughout the grand old Hall. Michael Boguski played an epic jam fused solo on his keys to bring all the senses to a spellbound apex. The song was defiantly the most enchanting moment of the evening.
Greg Keelor’s vocal and rhythm blitz called “The Railroad” was an audience foot stomper. The American train song seems to be a lost genre. It was a chance for the band to get loose on a simple but powerful riff, and have some good ol’ lively fun.
But truly, after all the wonderful songs, vocals, lyrics and musicianship throughout the night , the real highlight had to be the encore. A surprise appearance of a Canadian Icon was to play out.
As Jim Cuddy jokingly said as he looked over to side stage, “Is that Gordon Lightfoot? No? Is that Gordon Pinsent? NO?…Is that Gordie Howe? NO?…wait… that’s Gord Downie!. Blue Rodeo brings out their old friend Gord ( and The Sadies) for a final encore.
“Strange and beautiful are the stars tonight.” – BLUE RODEO
Like a shooting star, Gord Downie walks out into her atmosphere. The trails streaks across her stage. The musicians all sing a heart warming version of “Lost Together”. The encore ends. Gord turns and waves to us thankfully. He exits the stage kissing the band, leaving a wake of glowing particles. It was a moving moment that only Massey could shelter in her arms.
“In the silence of this whispered night. I listen only to your breath. And that second of a shooting star. Somehow it all makes sense” – BLUE RODEO
Written by Chris Dragon
Photography by Chris Dragon