Words and Pictures by Dave MacIntyre
Blue Rodeo has always been one of those bands I find difficult to lump into any one genre. They are definitely country. Certainly rock and roll. And you could rightfully argue they are a blues band too. No matter what you choose to categorize them as, Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor are still going strong and doing their best work on stage. Even in a venue the size of Massey Hall, and surrounded in a sea of other musicians (I counted 13 on the stage at one point), the duo managed to create the atmosphere and intimacy of a saloon gig.
“One improvement I’ve noticed about the place, you can drink in your seats now!” Cuddy declared causing laughter and approving applause from the audience. “I can’t wait to be in the audience next time”.
Supported by Michael Boguski on keyboards, Bazil Donovan on bass, Glenn Milchem on drums and Bob Egan who played a multitude of instruments, the band entertained fans with material from their newest double-album The Things We left Behind including “Never Look Back”, “Gossip”, and “Don’t Let The Darkness In Your Head”. The newer, more emotionally raw material was well received by the crowd, but Blue Rodeo wasn’t about to limit their performance to sad songs.
Additional support came in the form of Cuff The Duke’s Wayne Petti on vocals and acoustic guitar, Julian Armour on cello, Julie Fader on flute and Anne Lindsay on violin. The result of such an instrumental mix was an epically rich sound pouring over the audience, most notably in the extended performances of “5 Days In May” and the ultra-slick and super swank version of “Diamond Mine”. Although fans were clearly enjoying themselves already, things turned up a notch when Cuddy and Keelor stood front stage centre, bathed in a single spotlight and began singing the first few verses of “Heart Of Mine”, with microphones turned off. Then the song kicked into overdrive when the rest of the band joined in and the mics went live. Female fans poured to the front off the stage in droves dancing and clapping along.
“You don’t have to be a girl to dance you know”, Cuddy announced to the audience afterwards. The audience was encouraged by Keelor to “help sing along” on “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” to which they happily obliged. The evening ended with an encore of hits that included “Till I’m Myself Again”, “Try”, in which Cuddy amazingly nailed all the high notes despite being 21 songs in, and finally “Lost Together”, in which opener the Dustin Bentall Outfit assisted. In just over two hours, Blue Rodeo succeeded in playing a well rounded selection of material that appeased a majority of fans—no small feat considering they have 25 years and 12 studio albums to choose from.