Having performed numerous shows across Canada over the last two months, Blue Rodeo wound up their current tour with a ‘make-up’ date (previously postponed show) in Kitchener, ON, and Team GDW were there to share the experience.  With a sold-out “Centre in the Square,” the iconic Toronto act “The Sadies” warmed up the crowd with their unique alt-country and rockabilly music.  Given their relatively short set, brothers Dallas and Travis Good delighted the crowd with a healthy dose of new material from their brand new “Northern Passages” album.  Having listened to this album during the drive up to Ontario, along with some of their older tunes, we were delighted to witness for ourselves their amazing musicianship live.

Demonstrating their impeccable fretwork throughout the set, The Sadies mesmerized the audience during one number where Dallas and Travis worked the frets on each other’s guitars, whilst continuing to strum their own in perfect time.  Their seemingly easy frequent shifts in musical timing and keys during specific tracks were also a marvel to experience live, and their 35-minute set closed to a well-deserved ovation from the crowd.  A headlining act in their own right, The Sadies clearly enjoyed sharing their fantastic new material, and played the role of opening act in their trademark professional manner, wowing fans old and new with a great night of music.

After a brief intermission for a meet and greet opportunity with all four members of the opening act, Blue Rodeo took the stage to a pretty lively welcome, and proceeded to delight the audience all evening with an impressive 26 track setlist.  In similar fashion to the previous Blue Rodeo shows that we attended, both Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor shared the microphone to greet the crowd with a great rendition of “Heart Like Mine.”

As is to be expected with any Blue Rodeo show, the fan favorites were certainly included in the set-list.  Established hits such as “Bad Timing,” “After The Rain,” and “Head Over Heels” were cranked out by Cuddy, while Keelor added “Diamond Mine,” “Rose Coloured Glasses,” and “Disappear.”  Moreover, given the extensive setlist, “Western Skies,” “Fools Like You,” and “The Railroad” were just some of the lesser-played tracks that made appearances too.  It was a fitting tribute to their opening act to not only play “Palace of Gold” in the style the Sadies employed in their cover as opposed to the traditional up-tempo Blue Rodeo version.

Given that this was indeed the closing night for the tour, the band played loosely all night, and were clearly ready to revel in some hijinks throughout the show.  Indeed, just four tracks into the set, pianist Mike Boguski was ‘pranked’ by a bizarre ‘unicorn head’ hanging above him during “Disappear.”  Mike may have cracked a big smile when noticing the prop, but did not miss a beat with his always-amazing solo.  Keelor received similar treatment during his performance of “You’re Everywhere.”  The bemused audience saw a hand-carved marionette of Keelor (a partner to one made for Jim Cuddy some time ago by a fan) dropping from the rafters to dance next to him, and belly laughs followed in response to his synchronized dance moves to mimic the puppet.  Keelor was certainly on form, and actively engaged with the lively crowd all evening.

Blue Rodeo showed no signs of letting off the gas pedal at all. With a nod to former band member Bob Egan, the torch was clearly passed to the amazing guest musician Jimmy Bowskill, whose pedal steel rejuvenated several tracks, as did his violin and mandolin skills too.  A bona-fide blues artist in his own right, Bowskill’s talents were fully utilized and added a tantalizing edge to the material.  Always plugging away in the background, drummer Glenn Milchem, bassist Bazil Donovan, and pianist Mike Boguski played flawlessly as always, and are an absolute pleasure to hear live time and time again.

It was also a pleasure to see lead guitarist Colin Cripps taking a larger role with both the backing vocal duties (especially with “One Light Left In Heaven” and “Over Me”) and his signature guitar sound.  Donning the now infamous ‘Nudie Suit’ was certainly an added bonus for the Kitchener crowd.  And the seemingly ‘reserved’ Cripps was also pranked during “Five Days In May,” with a glittering tiara being placed on his head as he launched into his solo, much to the amusement of the crowd.  Equally amused, Cuddy asked the crowd to “give it up for our princess” at the close of the song.

The crowd-participation favorite “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” would close out the set, and provide the band with a standing ovation from an appreciative crowd (some were heading for the exits at this point…why???).  An encore followed, with Cuddy nailing the big hit “Try” before giving the mic to Donovan, whose cover of “Little Ole Wine Drinker Me” made for a very welcome addition to the set.  As is the norm for any Blue Rodeo show, the opening act would be invited to join the band for the “Lost Together” finale.  Cuddy, however, wanted more, and encouraged all those ‘outliers’ to join them on the stage, from spouses, stage-hands, a very young Miss Donovan, and even a golden Labrador (yes, a dog would play fetch on stage during a song….don’t you just love this band?).  An amazing finale, and an amazing end to their 2017 winter tour.  Team GDW happily shared this intimate experience with Blue Rodeo, and cannot wait for the ‘next’ (as in ‘very soon, pretty please’) tour so that we can do it all over again.

 

Set List:

  1. Heart Like Mine
  2. Fools Like You
  3. Head Over Heels
  4. Disappear
  5. 1000 Arms
  6. Rose Coloured Glasses
  7. Superstar
  8. After The Rain
  9. Western Skies
  10. Bad Timing
  11. Diamond Mine
  12. One Light Left In Heaven
  13. Over Me
  14. Palace Of Gold
  15. I Can’t Hide This Anymore
  16. Cynthia
  17. You’re Everywhere
  18. The Railroad
  19. Is It You?
  20. What Am I Doing Here?
  21. Five Days In May
  22. Til I Am Myself Again
  23. Hasn’t Hit Me Yet

Encore

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

~ M

A very special thanks to guest photographers (and special friends of Team GDW!) Lori and Doug Murphy, who were close enough to the stage to get great shots for this article.