Review: Mike Biggar, “Live at the BMO Theatre”

Mike Biggar

‘Mike Biggar & Band – Live At The BMO Theatre ‘ is the much anticipated follow up to ‘Go All In’ which received both a Music New Brunswick Award and an East Coast Music Award. This album is his fourth full-length release on Busted Flat Records and captures a special concert from November 2018 featuring his full band, performed before a sold out audience in his hometown of Saint John, New Brunswick.​ Canada.

I will lay it straight out on the table that I am a huge Mike Biggar fan ever since I heard him perform live at an intimate performance in downtown Toronto a few years ago.  At the time, he demonstrated he could hold an audience, his humour shone through and his songwriting and arrangements were impeccable, while his awards gained him an opportunity to play at the hallowed Dakota Tavern for a very special Four Chords and The Truth event, a quarterly songwriters series based in Toronto, which has seen some of the biggest names in Canada take to the stage to perform their original material. Again Mike nailed it, as I expected he would, I’ve come to know that he is a natural performer, and comes into his own when in situations where he has an audience that listens, he’ll have you in tears with lines of love and regret, he’ll rip your head off with powerhouse vocals delivered with heartfelt emotions, he performs with such sincerity that you could almost say he was singing to just you, that is the mark of a great songwriter.

Why am I mentioning all of the above you may wonder?  Well, each time I’ve heard Mike live it’s been as a solo artist or accompanied by another guitarist, sure I’ve heard the fabulous studio albums, but with this new release I was looking forward to hearing the songs performed as if I was there in the audience. When I attend theatre shows I always eagerly anticipate them, wondering whether the artist will be on form, hoping there will be good reactions from the audience because that’s what makes a good live event, if the audience is receptive, interacts where they should and listens in all the right places it makes for a stand out experience and I can imagine that after such a gig the artist will be on an adrenaline rush for a while.​

This is a truly remarkable performance by Mike and his band, I was absolutely blown away by his arrangement of the first track ‘Go All In’ some deft and soulful accompaniment from the stellar musicians and you can hear the audience’s reaction of appreciation after the first solo’s are over, I am in the moment, I am there with them, Mike is on top form and has just set the stage for a glorious hour of listening.

Mike and his band seamlessly move from original material to tip their hats to his gospel roots, his timing and expression are spot on the money., raising the bar as each track progresses into the next. ‘Troubles No More’ is exceptional as are track after track, lifting up and easing gently down whenever Mike thinks he should.

The sound recording is, in itself, a wonderful achievement, I had hoped that it would capture Mike the way I know he can sing, I hoped that the band would be captured in ‘the moment’ and I had hoped that I would feel a part of the audience when listening, this album has surpassed on all levels, commanding performances from not only Mike, but from this wonderfully talented band, the sound has been captured perfectly, my hat is off to the sound engineer, he deserves a huge amount of credit.

I know from personal experience what it’s like to perform on a big stage, and I know also how hard it is to capture the atmosphere, to make sure the mix is just right, listen to the track ‘I just See You’ and you’ll understand that this album is one of the best live albums you’ll get the chance to hear, it has not surprised me that Mike has pulled this off,. he is incredible and deserves national recognition as one of the countries top live performers, be that in an intimate environment or on a theatre stage.

Audiences, festival bookers and venue promoters take note, what you get is what you hear on this recording, the man has immense talent and I am glad I have been given the chance to sit through this sublime performance, bravo, encore !

An award winning piper, composer and singer / songwriter from Edinburgh, Scotland now based in Ontario, Canada, Stevie is the founder of Blues and Roots Radio, a multi award winning media platform established in 2012, based just outside of Toronto, with a hub in Melbourne, Australia. He has been recognized in 2014 and 2017 by the Mississauga Board Of Trade and Legislature of Ontario for his work in support and promotion of independent artists across Canada and around the world. He has in the past been honoured to sit on national music award panels.

He is currently head of programming and music director at Blues and Roots Radio where he oversees the running of two online radio channels and reviews the many releases sent to the station for airplay consideration.

He is passionate about the Canadian independent music scene and covers as many live events as time will allow.

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