Following our wonderful Saturday evening in Belleville, we headed west on Highway 401 the next morning for the second show in consecutive nights. Arriving in downtown Hamilton, ON, it was hard to not smile knowing that being in Hamilton during February means only one thing: a show featuring Jim Cuddy. However, with the brand new “Constellation” album as the focus of this tour, Jim would bring along several special guests to give this one a ‘not to be missed’ status. Team GDW, of course, were not wanting to let this one pass by, and the Hamilton date worked perfectly for us.
We were excited to learn that Cuddy’s long time friend and musician Barney Bentall would be one such guest for this tour. Having never had the opportunity to see Bentall live, the prospect of getting to hear him perform some of the wonderful new music from his “The Drifter & The Preacher” album was worth the price of admission alone. Accompanied on stage for his relatively short opening set by Anne Lindsay, Barney Bentall performed four tracks to open the festivities, including “The Preacher” from the new album. In between songs he was happy to converse with the audience, and referenced a bond to the city, as his father had attended school at McMaster University. Introducing another special guest to the stage, Bentall and Lindsay were joined by Devin Cuddy on keyboards for his finale; an amazing rendition of the 1988 classic hit “Something To Live For.” Indeed, a short but sweet opening set, though Barney would return several times during the course of the evening.
After a brief intermission, The Jim Cuddy Band were welcomed onto the stage at The First Ontario Concert Hall. Wanting to establish the format for the evening, Jim would announce that the band were here to play songs from the new album, stating “I know you are receptive to new material, but your hearts sink a little because you want the songs that you already know.” He followed this with the promise that the band would play just half the album, and then Devin, Sam and Barney would join the band on stage at various points for one big party.
Rather than mix new and old tracks throughout the set, The Jim Cuddy Band focused solely on music from “Constellations” from the offset; and from our initial first impressions of this great new album, we were not complaining. Launching immediately into the up-tempo “While I Was Waiting,” six new tracks in succession were shared by the band, including “Lonely When You Leave” and the emotion-charged title track. Cuddy would earn laughs when addressing the audience over Bentall’s earlier comments about Hamilton, stating that “I’ve known him so long, yet never knew his dad went to school here…he somehow has ties to every city that we play…I think he’s just kissing ass.” Closing this opening segment of all new music with the old-time sounding “Cold Cold Wind,” both Colin Cripps and Anne Lindsay shone with their collaborative guitar and violin outro that was a delight to hear.
Offering gratitude for the reaction to the new material, the crowd reacted even more to the opening riffs of the popular track “All I Need,” signaling that the party had started. And as promised, the guests would rotate in and out, with Barney accompanying Jim in a duet for “Bad Timing,” while Sam Polley and Devin Cuddy took the spotlight on their tracks “Surrender” and “Maggie’s Hardware Store” respectively. Indeed, both Barney and Sam returned during Devin’s number, demonstrating some ‘fun’ chemistry as they offered slick synchronized dance moves and some impromptu howling too.
Pre-empting “You Be The Leaver” with a statement that he had promised earlier to only play half of the new album, Jim Cuddy added that really wanted to share one more (no complaints here) on this night. This would be followed immediately by that recognizable burst of harmonica signaling “Five Days In May.” And while I am a huge fan of Blue Rodeo, I have to confess my love of Jim’s solo take on this particular tune, due in no small part to the outstanding Anne Lindsay violin solo in lieu of the Blue Rodeo piano solo. Running close to a ten minute number with both the violin solo and Colin’s impressive workout on his Gibson, this one is always a crowd favorite. Props to Sam Polley, who returned to the stage and stated, “There’s nothing like playing after Five Days…lucky me!” before entertaining all with his new song “Rude Girl.”
Other highlights during this part of the show included Devin’s accompaniment on keyboards during the bluesy “Water’s Running High,” and, of course, the return of Barney Bentall to perform “Don’t Wait For Me Marie,” the eight minute plus track (and my personal favorite) from his new album. After raising the roof with this song, everybody would take a temporary leave of absence while Jim seated himself at Devin’s piano for his solo piece “Pull Me Through” (which has hit the charts again, thanks to CBC’s video retrospective of skaters Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir set to the song). Both band and guests would promptly return, with Jim encouraging people to dance along to the uptempo hits “Til I Am Myself Again” and “It Could Happen To You,” before offering their thanks to the crowd and exiting the stage.
Of course, no Cuddy show is complete without a roof-raising encore, and did The Jim Cuddy Band and guests ever deliver on this night. Opening with the popular hit “Try,” both Cuddy and Bentall would split the lead vocals once again, with no hiccups (a reference had been made earlier by Cuddy questioning if Bentall would remember the words this time during “Bad Timing”). Jim would hand the spotlight to Devin for the next number, noting that “this one starts with some cursing, so be warned;” a cover version of the Luke Doucet penned “One Too Many.” For the Bentall fans in the audience, Barney would team up with Sam and Devin one last time for a rousing rendition of his popular hit “Come Back To Me,” before winding down for the grand finale; an unplugged, acoustic ‘edge of the stage – all-artists’ collaboration for “Wash Me Down.”
And as the artists took their bows, wished us a good night, and headed off stage, this wonderful night of entertainment came to an end. Just like the Constellation album had proven to be well worth the wait, so did this Constellation tour. Thank you to The Jim Cuddy Band and guests for an amazing show; and for once again providing great musical memories that seem to take place in Hamilton on an annual basis during February.
Jim Cuddy Band Set List:
- While I Was Waiting
- Where You Gonna Run
- Lonely When You Leave
- Hands On The Glass
- Cold Cold Wind
- All I Need
- Bad Timing (Jim Cuddy/Barney Bentall Duet)
- The Light That Guides You Home
- Surrender (Sam Polley)
- Maggie’s Hardware Store (Devin Cuddy)
- Married Again
- You Be The Leaver
- Five Days In May
- Rude Girl (Sam Polley)
- Radio (Devin Cuddy)
- Regular Days
- Water’s Running High
- Don’t Wait For Me Marie (Barney Bentall)
- Pull Me Through (Jim Cuddy Solo)
- Til I Am Myself Again
- It Could Happen To You
- Try (Jim Cuddy/Barney Bentall Duet)
- One Too Many (Devin Cuddy)
- Come Back To Me (Barney Bentall/Sam Polley Duet)
- Wash Me Down
Listen to the Constellation tour-themed episode of our podcast, “Gossip Talkin’ Blues,” for songs from the artists on the tour.