It has already been firmly established that Team GDW are fans of all things Blue Rodeo, and this extends beyond the music of co-founders Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor. So when finding ourselves with some free time in downtown Toronto this past weekend, we took the opportunity to catch a live set from The Mercenaries, a band that features long-time Blue Rodeo member (and friend of GDW) Glenn Milchem on drums.
Self-described as “Toronto’s most electrifying live rhythm and blues review,” The Mercenaries boast an ever revolving ensemble of well known Canadian musicians who combine to create a musical and theatrical extravaganza. On this particular Saturday evening at The Rec Room, we were witness to a stellar line up that would include Ian Goodtimes (vocals/bass), Nichol Robertson (guitar), Jeff Heisholt (organ), Braxton Hicks (saxophone) and of course, Glenn Milchem (drums). Guest vocalist Joan Smith would join the band on stage for a few numbers during the second set later that evening.
When asked what we would hear from The Mercenaries, Glenn stated that we could expect “50’s and 60’s rock and R&B covers, some cheesy stuff and some wedding band type music.” And as the five gentleman took their places on stage, they launched straight into a cover of “Everybody needs somebody to love” (Solomon Burke/The Blues Brothers). Following immediately with “Hallelujah I love her so” (Ray Charles), this was definitely great quality music and very little cheese (although Ian would later tease on several occasions with the chorus lines of “Against All Odds” (Phil Collins) – pausing after just one line to state that they “cannot go there just yet”).
Performing two full sets of music, the first half of the show would include popular covers of “Let the good times roll” (Shirley and Lee), “Runaway” (Del Shannon) and Long Tall Sally (Little Richard). Adding a few spontaneous snippets from other tracks to form occasional medleys, the first set would end with a brief cover of the Led Zeppelin hit “Whole Lotta Love” (and how we loved witnessing Glenn Milchem pounding those skins in the style of John Bonham). Maintaining a similar tempo and cross section of music during the second half of the evening, the band would be joined on stage for a few tracks by Joan Smith, who added some powerful vocals on songs such as “Crazy” (Gnarls Barkley) and “Immigrant Song” (Led Zeppelin). Both Nichol Robertson and Jeff Heisholt would be given lead vocal duties for a couple of numbers too.
The band would go out in style, closing the second set (and show) with a fantastic rendition of the CCR classic “The Midnight Special.” This unique, eclectic ensemble of fine musicians offered up an excellent mix of entertainment (and refrained from the ‘cheese’). With a little singing and a lot of dancing, this band were the perfect recipe for a Saturday evening party spirit in downtown Toronto.