Photographs by Lee-Ann Richer.
Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy joked that the veteran Toronto roots-rock band was trying to catch up with Gordon Lightfoot for playing Massey Hall the most times.
He admitted that they had a lot of catching up to do.
If the show the band played was any indication, they can count on being invited to play many more times in front of capacity crowds. The venue was nearly full as they played for a mesmerizing two hours.
Toronto alt-country vets The Sadies kicked off the evening in fine form with Travis and Dallas Good showing off their impeccable fretwork as they played a short set that saw them trotting out several tracks from their new album Northern Passages and were joined by their mother Margaret Good for one song.
Blue Rodeo took to the stage to a heroes’ welcome. Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor showed great harmonies and traded vocal duties throughout with guitarist Colin Cripps providing backing vocals. They kept up a good banter throughout, recounting stories behind songs such as ‘Disappear’ being inspired by a vacation that Keelor and a girlfriend took in an attempt to save a relationship.
They played several tracks from their latest release 1000 Arms and went back to old favorites including ‘Rose Color Colored Glassed’ and ‘Diamond Mine’. They paid tribute to The Sadies by playing a cover of one of their songs and showed their Canadianess by playing a song about Jasper Lake and one that name-dropped the TTC. The title track from their 2002 album, ‘Diamond Palace’ even featured a mandolin solo and they used a pedal steel to good effect throughout the evening.
Before leaving the stage before the encore, they had the audience on the feet and singing along for ”Till I Am Myself’.
The true highlight of the night came during the encore when they played their breakthrough hit ‘Try’, a song that still sounds as fresh as it did when it was released in 1987. They also gave bassist Bazil Donovan a chance to shine one song.
They joked about bringing another Gord on stage just before The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie was joined by The Sadies for the final song of the evening, their 1992 hit ‘Lost Together’. It provided the evening with a moment that was equally powerful, inspiring and heartbreaking.
Though Downie just seemed to be happy to be on stage, at one point that familiar, powerhouse voice could be heard faintly. Seeing the effect that his illness is having on him was heartbreaking but he appeared to be in good spirits.
It warmed the hearts of everyone in attendance as they headed out into the cold February night.