Within the Blue Rodeo community, the annual summer concert in Toronto is an absolute must for those in and around the GTA.  Having not yet experienced this for ourselves, we happened to be in town this particular weekend, and thus our first date with a Budweiser Stage concert was official.  Amidst all of the other attractions taking place in downtown Toronto on this gorgeous Saturday evening, the lure of an evening with Blue Rodeo and guests trumped everything.

Upon our arrival on the grounds, we were greeted with a very pleasant surprise.  Sam Cash was on hand to perform a small solo-acoustic set for those who needed to stop for some beverages.  What a strange coincidence – I had just prepared an article that revolved around one of Sam’s albums, and now here was the artist himself in living color ready to greet us with some live tracks.  I had the chance to meet with Sam, and mentioned this to him.  He seemed genuinely surprised that this random stranger who struck up a conversation with him happened to be a music blogger who loved Canadian music and was featuring him on our journal.

Taking his cue to hit the stage, Sam warmed up the growing crowd with a handful of tracks from across his catalog.  Opening with “Driveway Moment,” he would add “Teenage Hunger” and “Remedy” into the mix.  Prior to his performance of “Love You Through Worse,” Sam shared a tale of performing this as a duet with Kathleen Edwards, and as of today, remains an unreleased song.  For his final number, Sam performed “Nothing At All”, a brand new song that he was happy to debut.  Having seen this brief set, Team GDW are very eager to catch up with Sam Cash and The Romantic Dogs when they open for The Lowest of the Low next month.

Having made our way to our seats at the main stage, the show opened with a set by Oh Susanna.  Having seen Suzie Ungerleider perform solo just last month in London, ON, it was wonderful not only to hear her again, but to have her full band in tow (including both Jim Bryson and guest bassist Bazil Donovan).  Taking the opportunity to share tracks from her new “A Girl In Teen City” release, Oh Susanna started the party with “Getting Ready,” and added six tracks in succession from across this album.  The band would close with “King’s Road” from the “Sleepy Little Sailor” album, adding in a brief discussion of how the song title was influenced by her love for (of all bands) The Sex Pistols during her teen years.  We would later catch up briefly with Suzie and her husband/drummer Cam Giroux, and are very appreciative that they took time not only to stop and say “hi” once again, but to hang out and be music fans too.

Oh Susanna Set List:

  1. Getting Ready
  2. Tickets On The Weekend
  3. Lucky Star
  4. My Boyfriend
  5. Walked All The Way Home
  6. Wolf Boy
  7. Thunderbird
  8. Kings Road

Following a brief intermission, The Sadies would make their way onto the stage to perform a dazzling set of their neo-rockabilly surf-rock.  May I just pause briefly at this point to give *props* to bassist Sean Dean for wearing that amazing custom suit!  Okay! Back to the review!  The beautiful thing about a live session from The Sadies is that you know exactly what you are going to experience.  Yes, they will mix up the set list each time, but you know that they will go full throttle and rock solidly for the duration of their set.  Following on from their opener “The First Five Minutes,” Travis Good would launch into “Cheat” (one of several small instrumental pieces) and amaze all with his impeccable guitar picking.

Splitting lead vocal duties throughout the night, Dallas Good opted to focus on material from the recent “Northern Passages” album, cranking out both “Through Strange Eyes” and one of my personal favorites, “God Bless The Infidels.”  Travis Good dug further into their bag of musical tricks, pulling out “Leave Me Alone” and his great cover version of “Wearin’ That Loved On Look.”  Even a few technical difficulties with a malfunctioning guitar cable did not damper the performance, as Dallas quickly covered for Travis whilst making ad hoc instrument changes mid-song.  With “Tell Her What I Said” and “Higher Power” (guest appearance from ‘Mom’, Margaret Good) added to the mix, the band would go all-out on their popular fast-paced hit “Tiger, Tiger.”    It was a pleasure to experience the Sadies again, and we plan on making the drive to see them once more in the not-so-distant future. Stay tuned.

The Sadies Set List:

  1. The First Five Minutes
  2. Cheat
  3. Another Year Again
  4. Leave Me Alone
  5. God Bless The Infidels
  6. So Much Blood
  7. Introduction
  8. Wearin’ That Loved On Look
  9. Higher Power
  10. Through Strange Eyes
  11. Tell Her What I Said
  12. Ridge Runner Reel
  13. Tiger, Tiger

Another intermission passed by, and The Skydiggers made their way out to the stage to engage the crowd with a nine-track set list of some of their popular material.  For Team GDW, this was our first opportunity to catch Andy Maize and company live, and they certainly did not disappoint.  Opening with “Monday Morning,” the band would add “Feel You Closer” and “Hello Beautiful Life” into their set.  Although the primary vocalist (and trumpeter), Maize gave the lead reins to Guelph native Jessy Bell Smith for her version of “Ramblin’ On.”  Co-vocalist and lead guitarist Josh Finlayson would also perform a couple of tracks, one of which was the hit “Horseshoe Bay.”  Not being too familiar with their back catalog, we definitely enjoyed their upbeat performance and need to dust off the older albums that we have in our collection and delve into their material some more.  Some of those around us clearly knew every song by heart, proving just how popular The Skydiggers are in these parts.

The Skydiggers Set List:

  1. Monday Morning
  2. Horseshoe Bay
  3. Pull Me Down
  4. Feel You Closer
  5. Ramblin’ Man
  6. *Title Unknown*
  7. Hello Beautiful Life
  8. I Will Give You Everything
  9. *Title Unknown*

As the clock approached 9PM, the crowds at Budweiser Stage had intensified greatly.  That same crowd became very noisy the minute the lights dimmed to signal the arrival of Blue Rodeo.  And as both Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor led the way onto the stage, the audience had waited long enough (technically 12 months, right?) and were ready to party with each and every member of this band.  Just like their recent concert at Butler’s Barracks over the Canada150 weekend, Blue Rodeo came out strong with both “Five Days In May” and “Cynthia” as the lead off tracks, the first of twenty popular tunes that would be performed across a two hour set.  As is to be expected, both Keelor and Cuddy would dish out songs in equal proportions (Cuddy had 10 tracks, Keelor had 9, and as has been customary as of late, Bazil Donovan would take the lead during an encore performance), keeping the fan base happy on both sides.  Guitarist Colin Cripps and pianist/accordionist Mike Boguski would also receive their fair share of time in the spotlight during “Five Days in May” and “Disappear.”  And keeping the beat going as usual, drummer Glenn Milchem and bassist Bazil Donovan performed their magic all night, and are always a pleasure to see back there.

On this occasion, the recent guest musician Jimmy Bowskill was not available, due to his primary band The Sheepdogs having an event just a couple of hours north of Toronto that evening.  Those fond of a little pedal steel would not be disappointed, however, with Chris Oakman stepping in to fulfil those duties.  Blue Rodeo would also take advantage of having Travis Good on hand to add both violin and mandolin on a handful of numbers, including “I Can’t Hide This Anymore” (mandolin), “Fools Like You” (violin) and “You’re Everywhere” (violin).  Jim Cuddy fans were happy to sing along to hits such as “Bad Timing,” “One More Night,” and “After The Rain,” while Keelor’s crowd joined in with “Rose Coloured Glasses,” “Railroad,” and “What Am I Doing Here.”

As with any Blue Rodeo show, the time whizzed by, and before we knew it, Cuddy and Keelor were at center stage, mandolin and acoustic guitar at the ready, for the performance of “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet.”  And to hear the crowd reaction to the line “out in the middle of Lake Ontario,” and our own (personal) reaction to “the great dark wonder” (of course), a true sense of belonging with the Blue Rodeo brethren was there.  As thousands of people rejoiced and sang along to every word of this hit song, the band ended on a high and bid everybody a good night before exiting the stage to a very long and loud ovation.

Returning to louder cheers and applause, Blue Rodeo performed their standard 3 track encore.  Cuddy would lead off with “Try” (opted to play on guitar as opposed to piano this time around), Donovan then took his moment for “Little Ole Wine Drinker Me,” before everybody was invited back on stage for Keelor’s climactic piece “Lost Together.”  Suzie Ungerleider and Andy Maize would share vocals for the second verse, and both Dallas and Travis Good would add their touch for a few lines later in the song.  With the song drawing to a close, Keelor would give his thanks and gratitude to all of the opening acts, the crew, and the audience, and another amazing night with Blue Rodeo was complete. Our first experience of the annual Toronto extravaganza was a very memorable one.  Chatting to our neighbors Lori and Jim from London, ON, they had informed us prior to the show that this was their 20th straight Blue Rodeo concert at this venue; we clearly have a long way to go to catch up with loyal fans such as these.  Oh well, challenge accepted…

Blue Rodeo Set List:

  1. Five Days In May
  2. Cynthia
  3. I Can’t Hide This Anymore
  4. Fools Like You
  5. What Am I Doing Here
  6. Rose Coloured Glasses
  7. Superstar
  8. Railroad
  9. One More Night
  10. Disappear
  11. Tell Me Again
  12. Bad Timing
  13. After The Rain
  14. You’re Everywhere
  15. Head Over Heels
  16. ‘Til I Am Myself Again
  17. Hasn’t Hit Me Yet

Encore

  1. Try
  2. Little Ole Wine Drinker Me
  3. Lost Together

~ M