Photographs by Lee-Ann Richer
Some thoughts come to mind when thinking of Canadian symbols, such as the Maple Leaf, Hockey (Olympic gold!), Mounties and poutine. When I think of a Canadian band the names that pop into mind are The Tragically Hip, Rush, The Guess Who and of course Blue Rodeo!
Like The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo has an incredibly loyal fan base. Their popularity grew in 80s from playing relentlessly in the Toronto club scene. They are a band known for writing excellent material and then pounding the pavement with performances. This allows Blue Rodeo to make gutsy decisions and win, where other bands would fail doing the same.
Blue Rodeo booked two nights at Hamilton Place and almost sold out every one of the 2200 seats. Their first set was comprised of almost all new material. It’s interesting to note that most bands would interject a new song here and there as it is safer. The fans were only too happy to enjoy the new material that was separated once, by a more up-tempo song (Rolling Stones “Last Time”).
The first set started at 8:50pm with songs like “New Morning Sun”, “Mattawa”, “Wondering” and “Tell Me Again”. All songs were off their 14 song, 2013 new release “In Our Nature”. This is their 13th full length album since their first release 26 years ago. It is a more laid back album with a focus on loss and heartbreak. During the first set, Greg Keelor explained that one of the songs was written about a friend’s eight year relationship, which came to an end (“Tara’s Blues”). When he played it for her she was in tears. He felt so bad he ended up writing another song to console her (“Wondering”).
Keelor (guitar/vocals) no longer plays electric guitar as he has hearing damage issues. He now plays only acoustic guitar. Also, the band has to back off the volume of their monitors. This is the only way that Keelor can perform live with Blue Rodeo.
You would never know from the way Cuddy (guitar/vocals) was singing that about six years ago he had a vocal polyp removed. Before he had his surgery, the polyp took away his falsetto and even made it difficult to sing in his low register. Clearly the surgery was a success as his falsetto Wednesday night was spine chilling.
Cuddy and Keelor were joined by other original member, Bazil Donovan (Bass). Rounding out the band was Glen Milchem (drums/vocals), Mike Boguski (keyboards), Bob Egan (pedal steel/guitar and mandolin) and Hamilton’s own, Colin Cripps. Colin entered the band and took over electric guitar when Kellor was unable to continue due to the aforementioned hearing loss. Cripps’s guitar playing is a great addition to Blue Rodeo’s already amazing lineup.
At 9:55 pm the band stared the second set with “Diamond Mine” with a band jam and keyboard solo. The dynamics of this band has to be heard; you have to hear and feel it! With the next song “Til I Am Myself Again” Cuddy showed his breathtaking vocals again. The sound in the venue was pitch perfect and the lighting was much improved over the first set. Too bad the photographers weren’t able to photograph the second set, as the first three songs that they were permitted to photograph, were good but didn’t hold a candle to what followed.
The fans heard their favourites like, “Disappear”, “Head Over Heels”, After The Rain”, Dark Angel”, Trust Yourself”, Rose-Coloured Glasses”, “Bad Timing”, “5 Days In May” and ended the set with “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet”. Cuddy displayed his vocal abilities in their hit “Try” and then again with the Devin Cuddy Band (opening band). The ensemble performed “Lost Together” with Hamilton rocker Tom Wilson (Junkhouse and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings).
Blue Rodeo shows up in the area every regularly and do what they do best. Pack a house and give their fans enough to talk about until Blue Rodeo returns. This is a piece of Canada you should not miss! Two sets for the price of one! Great sound, lighting, personality and last but not least, great songs that sound exactly like we expect them to sound! It was my first time seeing Blue Rodeo and now I know what the fans are talking about!!