We arrived at the Ardmore Music Hall (just outside of Philadelphia, PA) on a beautiful fall evening for the highly anticipated opening night for the Blue Rodeo 2016 US tour. Upon parking at the rear of the venue, we encountered Devin Cuddy retrieving his gear from the tour bus, and found him to be incredibly friendly as we welcomed him to his first professional appearance in Pennsylvania.

Waiting at the front of the line outside the main entrance to the Ardmore, we were soon joined by several fans (a large percentage of whom were transplanted Canadians now residing in the Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., areas) who shared our sense of excitement to see this band in a smaller, more intimate setting.

Blue Rodeo sell out theatres across their native Canada, but here in the US, they remain relatively unknown (except to those true fans) which made this a welcome opportunity to come out and support the guys in their long-overdue return to our part of the world. As the doors opened, the line of fans and ‘music lovers’ had extended considerably along this part of Lancaster Avenue, giving us a feeling of pride that the support and welcome would be present after all.

With our new friends in tow, we promptly took seats front and centre of the stage (how we love the concept of ‘General Admission’ for a show like this), and marveled at how the staging was reversed from what we normally see, with the drum kit located in the far right corner, and Greg Keelor’s setup on the left. From our seats, we would spend the evening between Greg and Jim Cuddy, who would literally be performing just a few feet away.

Opening artist Devin Cuddy, and his guitarist Mike Tuyp, took to the stage for a few familiar tunes, before being joined by Blue Rodeo bassist Bazil Donovan and drummer Glenn Milchem for the remainder of their set. With the announcement that this was his US debut performance, the crowd welcomed Devin’s music with enthusiastic support – much to the delight of proud papa Jim Cuddy, who observed discreetly from the side of the stage, capturing the moments with his camera phone (and with a huge smile on his face).

Devin would warm up the rapidly growing audience with his jazzy-bluesy pieces that included “Home,” “Kitchen Knife,” and “Sidewalk in the South,” whilst hinting at things to come with his new recording “Radio.” “Afghanistan” would close the set to the deserved applause from the room. Devin was kind enough to autograph our copy of his “Volume 1” CD before heading off-stage – we are very grateful for that.

With a pretty well-populated music hall (kudos to folks in Pennsylvania for coming out to support the artists), Blue Rodeo took their positions on stage and received a very warm welcome. Jim and Greg would share centre stage to deliver harmonies for the intro to “Heart Like Mine,” before venturing to their pre-determined spots where Greg took the lead for the remainder of the song.

Naturally, there was to be an emphasis on promoting their fourteenth studio album “1000 Arms,” and Blue Rodeo would deliver six new tracks during the show. Greg would introduce the crowd to “Hard to Remember,” “Jimmy Fall Down,” and “Dust to Gold,” while Jim would take it up-tempo with “I Can’t Hide This Anymore, “1000 Arms,” and the first single release, “Superstar.” Having listened to the new album almost non-stop for the last week, we had no complaints….but the crowd really livened up for those timeless Blue Rodeo hits that included “What Am I Doing Here,” “Diamond Mine,” “Five Days in May,” and “Lost Together.”

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“Diamond Mine” gave the spotlight to pianist Mike Boguski, who never fails to amaze with his 3-minute solo of prog-rock keyboard mastery. Guitarist Colin Cripps would share the limelight during “Five Days,” rocking his Gibson SG to everybody’s delight. “Lost Together” would bring Devin Cuddy and Mike Tuyp back to the stage to share vocals with Greg, whilst allowing Bazil Donovan to demonstrate his bass playing prowess with a fantastic solo to close out the song. Blue Rodeo had the crowd hollering for more, and left the stage to a well-deserved ovation.

Returning for their encore, Blue Rodeo were clearly delighted by the crowd reaction, and diverted from their original set list to perform “Head Over Heels,” before allowing Jim to belt out the popular “Try” and for Greg to end the night with my personal favorite, “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet.” With a standing ovation, the show reached its climax, and the crowd headed for the exits after bidding Blue Rodeo a good night.

If this one night is an indication of what US fans can expect during this short tour, then we strongly advise you to catch one of their next shows and be ready for a night of awesome live music that Blue Rodeo continues to deliver. Miss a show at your own peril, because who knows when the guys will likely grace our musical venues again. Blue Rodeo once again delivered the goods, and we cannot wait to see them again in Hamilton, ON next February.

~ M