“Anchors Up” Tour At The Aeolian Hall

Anchors Up Tour

If you saw our most recent Blue Rodeo concert recap, you likely learned that we followed that spontaneous afternoon in St. William, ON, with an evening event at the Aeolian Hall in London, ON – a show we purchased tickets for within minutes of going on sale back in early May.  The “Anchors Up” tour brought together three incredibly popular artists from Atlantic Canada – The Once (Newfoundland), Fortunate Ones (Newfoundland) and Old Man Luedecke (Nova Scotia) – making this a cross-country tour that we could not afford to miss.

Kicking off the festivities, Old Man Luedecke was the only artist on this bill that we had not yet managed to encounter live, and after his opening 30-minute set, Chris left us craving much, much more after sharing a handful of popular cuts and a pair of new ‘pandemic-themed’ songs. We enjoyed hearing the up-tempo banjo tune “Mountain Plain,” his resurging SXM hit “Easy Money, and “Joy Of Cooking” – his comical ode to cuisine. “I used to have an audience that was largely comprised of vegan knitters, and this is where I lost them,” he joked. “I wrote this song about bacon.”

No shining knight, but I need to have armor / Every couple months, you know I’m angry at Big Pharma / I got in line to get the jab up in the arm-er / They used to call it art, but now they call it trauma,” Chris recited during one of his new (unannounced title) compositions. “I wrote [this] song in the pandemie if you believe it?” he shared between both new tunes. “I don’t know if you picked up a strong pandemie vibe? That was one of the ones I wrote in the basement at home in Chester, Nova Scotia.” “People on the internet say dumb shit / Almost all my anger is directed at it … / I know there are good things I should say about our love / But the beauty of the raven is that he is not the dove.

Old man Luedecke

Offering the crowd in the sold-out Aeolian Hall a song by request, an immediate cry for “Kingdom Come” was returned his way from the floor. “I appreciate the request very much and I haven’t done that yet on this tour because the result is disastrous,” Chris responded, pausing for laughs. “I wrote this song … I was a kid who was very shy as a child. I never wanted to sing Happy Birthday. Didn’t have any communal music in my life at all. I found folk music and I was scared of Christmas carols, and I was invited to a Christmas concert – but with singer-songwriters, if you ask them if they have kids’ songs, you say, ‘yeah, I’ve got kids’ songs,’ and they’re like, ‘do you have metal songs,” and I’m like, ‘yeah, I’ve got a bunch of metal songs,’ and it’s like, ‘yeah, you’re not turning down a lot of work.’ And I kind of ram-roaded some Christmas lyrics into this song.”

Old Man Luedecke Set List:

  1. Mountain Plain
  2. (Unreleased Song – Unknown Title)
  3. (Unreleased Song – Unknown Title)
  4. Easy Money
  5. Death Of Truth
  6. Kingdom Come
  7. The Early Days
  8. Joy Of Cooking

As Old Man Luedecke bid us farewell, St Johns, NL folk-duo Fortunate Ones made their way onto the stage, and quickly launched into their recent radio hit, “Day To Day,” a song found on their latest 2022 album, “That Was You And Me.”  Having previously enjoyed shows with the husband & wife team of Andrew James O’Brien (guitar/vocals) and Catherine Allan (keyboards/accordion/vocals) both in ON and here in PA, it was wonderful to catch up once more, to hear some familiar tunes and experience some of their new material first-hand.

Andrew would dedicate “It’s Worth It (For Leo)” to his father, and the duo would include “Anchor,” the simply gorgeous single released earlier this year, into their 30-minute set. “I think we should plant some seeds / And finally start growing that family tree / Little sunlight and love you’ll see / We’ll fill these halls with the sweetest of leaves / One part you and then one part of me / That’s a place that I think we should be.”  The duo would also take time to offer their appreciation for being back out on the road and sharing their music with audiences once more. “Hearing you laugh collectively during Early Days with Chris just now, it just hit me back there that we’re doing this again. It’s very surreal,” Andrew offered.

Fortunate Ones

Of course, anybody familiar with this duo knows to expect some amazing chemistry and on-stage banter – it’s a hallmark of being a Newfoundlander, right?  “We’re on a tour bus with some of our best pals going across country on a giant camping trip,” Catherine offered about this “Anchors Up” tour. “It’s like an adult sleepover extravaganza,” Andrew added. “It’s really kind of excessive though, the rock and roll lifestyle.  You wouldn’t believe the amount of green tea and manuka honey we have. It is ludicrous out here. We’re just up all night until about 11:30 and it’s crazy.”  “We have a bottle of Jack,” Catherine stated. “You mean Toms, it’s an organic toothpaste,” Andrew retorted. “It’s excessive out here folks.”

Fortunate Ones Set List:

  1. Day To Day
  2. Wherever You Go
  3. It’s Worth It (For Leo)
  4. Before You
  5. Anchor
  6. Heavy Heart
  7. Lay Me Down

Following an intermission, The Once were welcomed to the Aeolian Hall stage to commence the second half of the show – and after performing a 45-minute set of their own folk-music, would invite their touring companions back to the stage for a four-song collaborative finale.  Having last caught up with this fabulous trio of Geri Hollett (vocals/percussion), Phil Churchill (guitar/vocals), and Andrew Dale (mandolin/bouzouki/vocals) in Burlington, ON (summer 2018), we also recalled our first encounter with these talented musicians took place a year earlier in this very city at the Home County Music and Arts Festival. We were long overdue for experiencing their always-outstanding live performance once more.

Opening with “Cradle Hill,” The Once mixed in many popular songs to satisfy the cravings of a music-hungry room, including their cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and “By The Light Of The Kerosene Lamp,” sans instrumentation, and just their stunning 3-part vocal harmonies. “If any of you are in a long relationship, you know as well as I do, it’s not always easy,” Geri offered, prior to a performance of “Any Other Way.” “In fact, sometimes it sucks, but it’s okay. You can get past some hard stuff and still look at that person over and over again and say, ‘you know, I’d do it all over again, I wouldn’t have it any other way,’ and you’ll probably be okay.”

Following the lead from the previous acts, The Once were more than happy to engage in some humorous banter in-between songs. “Hey everybody, I’m Phil and I’m going to sing you a song,” Phil announced, mimicking Johnny Cash. “I appreciate that.” He would follow with an amusing tale about touring with friends, and observing their interactions that were not intended to be shared, but made great fodder for a song. He also had us splitting our sides with laughter when recalling time spent with his very young nephew. “He was in the living room just staring at the TV, and I’m staring at him just looking at it, and then you see the big old dark patch start in his little OshKosh B’gosh (visual mimicry of bladder loss) – unflinching, he says to me, ‘can I have a cookie?’,” Phil offered. “And I thought wow, if I could access what that kid’s got going on – if I could do that come April, roll in at tax time and just say, ‘I don’t have the money to pay for that (repeats the visual), but can I have a cookie?’.”

The Once

Prior to performing “The Nameless Murderess,” their tale based loosely on the story of Catherine Mandeville Snow (the last woman executed by hanging in Newfoundland), Geri announced that the song was co-written with Jody Richardson back home, and that he was worth looking up.  “Like in the phone book, you can find him in the phone book,” joked Andrew. “He’s the only one in there.”  Struggling to hold back her laughter from Andrew’s perfectly timed punchline, Geri had to ask Andrew if he really still owned a phone book. “Yeah, you didn’t get yours a couple of months ago?” he responded. “We got ours a couple of months ago in the mail.” Still laughing, Geri quickly managed to regain her composure to perform this always fabulous tune.

The Once Set List:

  1. Cradle Hill
  2. Any Other Way
  3. Can’t Help Falling In Love
  4. Gonna Get Good
  5. Before The Fall
  6. By The Glow Of The Kerosene Light
  7. The Nameless Murderess
  8. We Are All Running
Anchors Up Tour

As The Once closed their set, the invitation was made for both Old Man Luedecke and Fortunate Ones to return and join them together on stage. Each act would have the opportunity to perform one of their own original tunes, with added instrumentation and vocal harmonies from their friends to add some extra flavor to these known tunes.  Hence the wonderful addition of accordion from Catherine as The Once delivered “Song For Memory,” and banjo from Chris added to “The Bliss,” the CBC radio hit from Fortunate Ones. And with Andrew Dale adding some sweet mandolin to accompany Chris and his banjo during “Yodelady,” the energy flowing around the room was in overdrive.  With one final number to send the sold-out Aeolian Hall crowd home (and with a solid two hours of music), all six musicians opted for a lively interpretation of “End Of The Line,” splitting verses for a true, and wonderful collaborative finale.

Encore Collaborations

  1. Song For Memory (The Once)
  2. The Bliss (Fortunate Ones)
  3. Yodelady (Old Man Luedecke)
  4. End Of The Line (Traveling Wilburys cover)

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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