Generally speaking, long-term success in the Canadian music scene means signing up for a lifetime of touring. This route builds a fan base and develops a live act, but it is not easy to sustain. So, earlier this year, when Hey Rosetta! announced that it was taking an indefinite hiatus after a dozen years of recording and touring, no one could lay blame. The band put out a statement that explained how time and circumstances weighed on the band; they needed a break. Though billed as a hiatus, one has to wonder if the alchemy that makes great music will still be there if the band ever decides to come back. Time will tell.
As a parting gesture, Hey Rosetta! put on 5 last shows. The first three shows were held at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre, jam packed every night, including the last night, which I was lucky enough to attend. The last two, scheduled for their hometown of St. John’s, Newfoundland, will be the end of a longstanding tradition wherein the band held a Christmas party of sorts every year. All good things must come to an end.
The evening kicked off with a high-energy set by Halifax’s Rich Aucoin. Aucoin’s music is simple and repetitive. His musical merit is augmented by the performance elements he uses. He beckons the crowd to participate, by singing, bouncing or manipulating the giant parachute. His set started with a video tribute to Hey Rosetta!, a band he has opened for on 34 occasions. There is clear affection between the Maritime acts.
Hey Rosetta’s night was filled with song. There was little in the way of stage banter, which allowed for the audience to revel in the music. The 19 song set filled the room with the tunes the fans wanted to hear. The pace varied, with the slower songs offering a contemplative feel and the up-beat ones bringing the party. The two high-points of the show were Bandages and a poignant video of clips taken by Phil Maloney over his tenure with the band. The montage allowed us to appreciate how much growing up the group has done.
The night ended with a rousing sing-along of Ben E. King’s classic Stand By Me. It seemed as much a message from the fans to the band as the other way around. Whether together or apart, let’s hope that the band continues to make great music for many years to come.