Before I jump into this feature, I really MUST state for the record here that for us live music junkies, the return of in-person concerts and festivals in 2022 has been not just food for the soul this year, but an entire FEAST for us music-starved folks. Having enjoyed just three months of live music in 2020 before the world shut down around us, and an almost-embarrassing two shows in 2021, this annual recap found itself shelved for the last two years due to a severe lack of content.
In contrast, 2022 saw some return to normalcy (albeit cautiously), with Canadian artists touring once more here in our part of the US, and with our own travel plans taking us north of the border to catch shows in our favorite Canadian towns and cities too. Naturally, this exposure to live music brought with it the opportunity to recall ten of the most memorable “you had to be there” experiences over these last twelve months. And in similar fashion to previous features, I shall not rank these ten moments in any particular order, but compile the list in chronological order of our live concert adventures.
Allison Russell: “4th Day Prayer” (Vienna/March)
If 2021 was considered a bust for many a performing artist, this was not the case for Nashville-based Allison Russell, whose solo career blossomed during this time. Featured on GDW five times alone, our final article of 2021 announced Allison’s “Outside Child” as my own favorite Canadian album of the year. We were thrilled to catch Allison Russell live in concert at The Barns at Wolf Trap back in the spring. While the entire performance was something nobody should miss, this potent album track proved to be the highlight. Flanked by the gospel-laced harmonies from her ensemble, Allison’s powerful mantra delivered in the chorus brought each and every hair on the back of my neck to life.
Lynne Hanson: “Shadowland” (Alexandria/March)
If Ottawa-based musician Lynne Hanson had the tenacity to deal with the Freedom Convoy protests in her hometown, and encounter the US variety as she drove on the beltway around our nation’s capital this past spring, how could you not want to be supportive and enjoy her intimate house concert in the DC suburbs? Saving this recent (at the time) single, “Shadowland,” for the finale, this performance brought a rip-roaring, cinematic spaghetti western and surf-rock inspired tune to life, with enthusiastic audience participation, and some simply stellar fretwork from guitar-slinger and touring companion Blair Hogan, whose vintage Telecaster was on fire all evening.
Matt Andersen (ft. Terra Lightfoot): “I Shall Be Released” (Vienna/May)
Our last visit to Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA prior to the pandemic was to catch up with blues artist Matt Andersen. Our first visit post-pandemic, once again coincided with a repeat performance from Matt Andersen, and with the always fabulous Terra Lightfoot sharing the bill, was a night we’d circled on our calendar with an extra bold Sharpie. As is customary for Matt, he invited his touring companion onto the stage for an encore performance, and following a highly comical discussion about an earlier mani pedi experience, the duo complemented each other perfectly during a fabulous split-vocal and bluesy interpretation of “I Shall Be Released,” the popular hit from The Band.
Tom Wilson: “Death Row Love Affair” (Hamilton/May)
Tom Wilson’s ‘Mohawk Symphony’ concert at McMaster University in Hamilton was quite possibly one of the most moving and thought-provoking events we’ve ever attended. This was not simply a concert, but a cultural experience designed to bring awareness to Indigenous issues, whilst fundraising for a scholarship to benefit the next generation of Indigenous students. Musical guests rotated in and out all evening, but this one moment where Tom stood alone (center stage, no guitar), his emotional, gravely voice accompanied only by composer Darcy Hepner & the Devah Quartet, truly was one of those incredible moments that we are fortunate to experience perhaps only once in a lifetime.
Jerry Leger: “Recluse Revisions” (Hamilton/June)
We’d purchased tickets to finally see Jerry Leger perform at Mills Hardware in Hamilton long before the pandemic kicked in, begrudgingly accepted the refund following the cancellation, and then purchased again when a post-pandemic make-up date was announced. We were late in discovering Jerry’s music, but thanks to some hearty recommendations, quickly loved this no-nonsense folk-country artist who pulls no punches. With a sound and style similar to those of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, both elements of these peers are more than evident in this cut from his latest “Nothing Pressing” album. Accompanied by friend Dan Mock on upright bass, this performance was phenomenal.
Bywater Call: “Forgive/Arizona” (London/July)
Prior to the summer festival season, Bywater Call were completely unknown to us – but once this Toronto band hit the main stage in London, ON’s Victoria Park, my jaw almost hit the ground when hearing both Meghan Parnell’s voice and their fabulous brand of soul-blues music. I was captivated, lured from my chair to the edge of the stage, phone-camera in hand to capture footage of this talented and energetic seven-piece band. Recording a clip of “Forgive,” guitarist Dave Barnes added a final solo, prompting the band to progress seamlessly into “Arizona.” It may have been a challenge to hold that camera steady for the combined 10-minute duration, but what a keepsake to replay over again.
Black Suit Devil: “Dreams” (Gravenhurst/August)
If there ever was a moment that tugged hard at the heartstrings for both Lesley and myself this summer, seeing Black Suit Devil perform this one solo-acoustic tune to commence a private and intimate ticketholder function at the Muskoka Music Festival is hands-down the winner. BSD’s Andy Du Rego was not part of the festival line-up, but as a long-time good pal of GDW, had driven to Gravenhurst to visit with us on a glorious Saturday afternoon. The stars were clearly aligned that day, as Andy ultimately was introduced to festival curator Miranda Mulholland, who seized the perfect opportunity to surprise us all with this bonus performance. Here’s hoping the team at the festival invite Andy back next summer.
Matt Mays: “Travellin’” (Ancaster/September)
Announced as the headlining act at the Ancaster Fair (with minimal advance billing), it was inexcusable to not take a road trip to this Hamilton suburb to enjoy music from Matt Mays and his full band. With cries from the audience for this popular tune, Matt and co. teased us all with concerns of not remembering how to play it. Naturally, they obliged, and with keyboard-wiz Leith Fleming-Smith on stage, we were treated to the extended version. Flanked by guitarists Mays, Adam Baldwin, and Ryan Stanley (with fabulous choreography), Leith strapped on a keytar and took center-stage to rock out with his solo – much to the appreciation of the ecstatic crowd.
Blue Rodeo: “Ride Your Bike” (St. William/November)
Hey, if we have the opportunity to see Blue Rodeo perform, it’s a given that they are making this list – and even more so when encountering the band for the first time since the pandemic. Having the opportunity to interview both Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor for GDW last year about their “Many A Mile” album, it was wonderful to enjoy this track from that release during the performance on a glorious November afternoon at Burning Kiln Winery. Making this even more than a memorable concert moment is the completely random encounter we had with Greg Keelor in person just 24 hours earlier – itself planting the seed for us to add this event to our concert-going calendar at very short notice.
Ben Caplan: “Rubber Duckie” (Toronto/November)
There are memorable moments, and then there are once-in-a-lifetime-Ben-Caplan moments – as the Halifax, NS singer-songwriter joined Terra Spencer at The Dakota Tavern to officially launch their “Old News” album (and Terra’s debut headlining tour). Any of the duets between these artists could have easily made this final spot on the list – ditto for Ben’s few regular solo pieces – but on this given night, once Ben announced that he was about to play a song he wished he had written, never in our wildest dreams did we anticipate a Sesame Street cover. Delivered in his own unique style, with candor, humor, and jest added for good measure, this two-minute piano romp truly was a once in a lifetime affair.
Some of these highlights are available on our YouTube page – check them out here.