By naming its Massey Hall show “Songs Seldom Heard”, Blue Rodeo set certain expectations. Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy, the two stellar songwriters fronting the band, have penned many songs that are now staples in the CanCon canon. Die hard fans may have been hoping for their favourite deep cuts or songs that the band hasn’t played in ages, while casual fans may have been hoping for a few hits. Either way, the carefully curated setlist did not disappoint.
The band kicked things off with Outskirts, the titular track from their 1987 debut album and then offered up How Long, a tune from its sophomore record, Diamond Mine. The night did not include much story-telling, but for the lead-in to Piranha Pool, Keelor alluded to the Reagan era being “the beginning of the neo-fascist movement in conservative politics that we see today” and then let the lyrics say the rest.
As Blue Rodeo meandered its way through its early back-catalogue, each member of the band had moments to prove their skill and ease on stage. The performances were enhanced by the occasional organ/accordion/guitar solo. The magic atmosphere of Massey Hall only intensified the sonic experience of songs like Side of the Road, House of Dreams or Joker’s Wild. Blue Rodeo’s sound easily straddles the arbitrary lines that separate Country from Rock making it universally appealing.
Throughout the night, Keelor thanked the audience for letting them play these “old songs”, but the real hit parade came at the end of the night. Cuddy segued “from seldom heard to often heard” and launched into a string of radio-staples starting with Til I Am Myself Again and 5 Days In May. Cuddy and Keelor then sparked the moment that the audience was yearning for… they stepped to the front of the stage and played the opening notes of It Hasn’t Hit Me Yet. They had no mics, they didn’t need them; the fans belted out every word.
With utter disregard for the 11:00 p.m. Toronto “concert curfew”, Blue Rodeo played a three-song encore starting with a fever-pitched You’re Everywhere. They then slowed things down with two final Blue Rodeo classics. First, Jim Cuddy took to the piano to lead a perfect rendition of the band’s first hit, Try. And finally, joined on stage by show openers Brooks and Bowskill and long-time friend Matt Mays, all of Massey Hall happily sang a rousing sing-along version of Lost Together… together.
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Be sure to check out Live Nation Ontario to see all of the other great acts that they will be bringing to Toronto this year.