Posts Tagged ‘casino regina’

SLCR #368: Headstones (November 25, 2022)

December 14, 2022

This was maybe the most concerty concert since we went back to doing stuff. Loud. Bright lights. So many people.

Granted, it was a band that was big when I was in university now playing the casino circuit, so it’s a concerty concert for people of a certain age, by people of a certain age. But I am of said certain age, getting more certain with every passing year.

In regards to said certain age, we got to the end of the workweek and the idea of going out to a show felt daunting. You know what’s nice? My house. I mean, not really; if you’ve seen it, you know it does a passable job of keeping the elements out and that’s about it. But it’s there, and we were already there. Did we really want to go elsewhere?

Ultimately, I guess we did. We arrived at the casino and the opener was already playing. I got a new Apple Watch a few weeks ago, and immediately upon walking into the show lounge, I was introduced to one of the new watch’s new features: the loud environment warning. “Repeated, long-term exposure to sounds at this level can damage your hearing,” it says. I know, watch.

The opener was Arcana Kings, formerly known as the Johnny McCuaig Band. The new name is probably an improvement, if only because I’ve never understood the Person’s Name Band format. Be a solo act or a band, not both at once. Anyway, to the best of my knowledge, I’d never seen them before, but I knew the name as they’re originally from Regina. This was fine. They had bagpipes, played by the aforementioned Johnny McCuaig, which worked for me and made them more interesting than your average bar band. They closed with a crowd-pleasing cover of It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll).

As for the Headstones, look, I really like the Headstones. For a few years there, I was seeing ridiculous numbers of concerts, and those shows elevated the Headstones in my eyes more than almost any other band I saw. They went from “I know of them, I’ve heard a few songs, they’re fine, I guess, I dunno” to one of my favourite bands of their era. They put on better live shows than their contemporaries that are still going concerns, and you know you’re going to have a good time.

But you also know exactly what you’re going to get. They’ll play all the hits, they’ll cover New Orleans is Sinking and House of the Rising Sun, you’ll get to sing along with the one that goes “fuck you, fuck you, fuck you and only you” (it’s called Fuck You), Hugh Dillon will wade out into the crowd with a long-corded mic and make the roadies’ lives difficult. (He came right up to me! I got to duck under the cord!) There were a few new songs – they just put out a new album – but then there are always a few new songs.

All of which is to say I didn’t dig this like I usually do, but it’s a me thing and not a them thing. Apart from just being tired and lazy at the end of the week, this was easily the loudest show I’d been to in years, and the most crowded show too. And we’re still masking, but judging from the crowd, we’re the only ones. (Mika overheard someone calling our masks “silly,” and if that’s the most flack we take over them, fine by me, especially since I didn’t even notice.) But between the volume and the people – and the strobe lights, and the prerecorded screechy noise they played upon ending their set – it wasn’t the best time I’d ever had. All we have coming up are smaller sit-down shows and that might be fine for now.

UPCOMING CONCERTS:
• Pierre Kwenders w/Selci and DJ Hendrika (January 27)
• Hawksley Workman w/Mauvey (January 28)

SLCR #364: Crash Test Dummies (September 11, 2022)

October 11, 2022

I still can’t really wrap my head around this idea that it’s 2022 and the Crash Test Dummies are just going to play here every few years. I thought this was all done. I think they thought this was all done. 

I was anticipating an issue picking up the tickets, seeing as how the credit card I’d bought them with went missing (I left it at the Co-op as I am smart) and has since been replaced. The last time we saw the Dummies at the casino, I wound up with them having no record of my purchase and they gave me handwritten blank tickets with the seat numbers on them, so I was fearing the worst. I said as much to Jeff, who replied “yeah, but you’re with me,” and that put me at ease. Not only has he gotten into multiple events with missing tickets, he once made it into an entire other country without a passport. And, true to form, we had no problem with at all.

I checked out the stuff table before the show and it was pretty packed. Most of their albums were there, CD and vinyl, all autographed. And there was a wider variety of shirts than I’ve seen at most concerts. I picked up a few knickknack type things that I didn’t need at all but the urge to collect is, sadly, strong.

The opener – somewhat of a rarity at casino shows – was Carleton Stone. I’d seem him before as part of Port Cities when they opened for David Myles a few years back at the Artesian, but this was my first chance to see him solo. You know he’s famous because he had a song on Heartland, which I only mention because precisely one of you is a big Heartland fan (two of you, if one of you is Carleton Stone’s grandma) and I want to see if you’re still reading these things. Stone played a short, delightful set that was well-received. 

Maybe a little too well-received, actually. Our table was up at the front. To our right was a very excitable fan who was so excited for the Dummies, so excited for Carleton Stone, so excited for life itself. He was all about hollering to such an overenthusiastic degree that you kind of thought it had to be sarcastic. Pretty sure he was just trashed tho’.

I’ve seen and written about the Dummies many times and at this point, if you still need me to tell you what they sound like, you don’t care and never will. The key thing to me was that for all the times I’ve seen them, this was the time where it looked the most relaxed and like they were having the most fun. Ellen and Mitch had a whole routine worked out for How Does A Duck Know, which made her the best part of a song where she wouldn’t otherwise have much to do. And Brad was back playing guitar on some songs, which I don’t think I’ve seen him do since the times I saw them in 1999.

Ellen later told me that she didn’t think it was one of their best performances. There did seem to be some confusion about what song was next in the set at a few points, but it didn’t detract from the show, and anyway, I blame the setlist. I swiped one after the show and saw that it had some manual edits, so something got switched around late. 

That setlist:

God Shuffled His Feet

In The Days of the Caveman

Swimming In Your Ocean

Here I Stand Before Me

I Think I’ll Disappear Now

How Does a Duck Know?

When I Go Out With Artists

The Psychic

Androgynous

Comin’ Back Soon (The Bereft Man’s Song)

The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead

(A Little Something was scratched out and KNIGHTS was written in for Two Knights and Maidens – and they played neither)

He Liked to Feel It

Superman’s Song

Afternoons & Coffeespoons

(encore)

Heart of Stone

The Ghosts That Haunt Me

Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm

They have enough hits in Canada that I momentarily blanked on what the last song was going to be and then felt really dumb. I could leave this out and not tarnish your impression of me but I’ll look like an idiot for Content. Not the first time, won’t be the last.

They haven’t had a new album out since 2010’s Ooh-La-La, and with the focus on the 30th anniversary of God Shuffled His Feet, we only got one song off that album. For something that – as far as I know – didn’t sell in big numbers or get any real traction when it came out, it’s interesting to see how Heart of Stone has become an audience favourite. You could hear a pin drop during that one.  

Also an audience favourite? Ellen’s dress, primarily to the lady sitting behind us who excitedly yelled “it has pockets!” 

I’m long since back to being a civilian as far as the Dummies are concerned. I really only keep in touch with Ellen, mostly just to send each other pictures of our pets or my friends’ pets. If you got a new kitten or puppy in the past few years, odds are she’s seen them. She asked where I was sitting beforehand and made faces at me throughout the show. I tried to respond to in kind, but I was masked so had to do a lot of eyebrow work. A few of the other folks shot a quick wave or nod in my direction, which was nice. Or possibly entirely made up in my head. Really, nice either way.

May 31, 2022

SLCR #360: Hawksley Workman (April 21, 2022)

Hey, this guy again. After 26 concerts, what’s there left to say?

Out of ideas, I asked Mika for advice.

“Write it in haiku.”

So that’s what I’ll do. That should make it amusing, if only for me.

Dez and Reagan came. We met at the casino (that’s where the show was). We had front row seats – Hawksley’s first casino show. Seemed like a good crowd.

Saw a guy from work. He’d never heard Hawksley songs – asked what to expect. I couldn’t answer. Kind of pop or rock or folk, sometimes weird – or not. Never got to ask “how was your first Hawksley show?” Maybe tomorrow.

Ads for future shows: Matthew Good, Gowan, The Trews. And… who? Elton Rohn? Is this man’s name Ron? If so, just use Elton Ron. That H complicates. Tribute bands abound. Gilvis or GTFO, far as I’m concerned.

Local DJ time! Five minutes of blah blah blah, then came Hawk and band. No Mr. Lonely – more like MISSED-er Lonely, right? Right? Anyone? ::sigh::

This is the setlist. Will it haiku properly? I guess we’ll find out.

Beautiful and Nat-
ural , Wonderful and Sad,
Your Beauty Must Be

Rubbing Off, Ita-
ly, Baby Mosquito, Dev-
astating , Striptease,

No More Named Johnny,
Battlefords, Piano Blink,
Oh You Delicate

Heart, No Beginning
No End, Chemical, Around
Here, Who Do They Kiss?

Tahiti Treat, Don’t
Be Crushed, encore: We’ll Make Time,
Safe and Sound was last

That worked out okay. Sometimes awkward, sometimes good. Better than I’d guess.

So, about that show. You all know that I had fun; here’s what was unique. With no Lonely there, not as many softer songs. Highlight was Striptease. Super cool version – Hawk played drum pads with mallets. That was new to me. All throughout the show, he played different instruments; guitar, drums, and keys. Something we noticed – Hawksley seems the happiest when playing the drums.

Not much stage banter – usually we get stories. Not so much this time.

When the encore came, Hawksley came back out alone. T’was just him and us. First we had to sing, then – for Safe and Sound – whistle. Two risky choices; We’ll Make Time is fast, not the easiest to sing. (And our whistling stunk.)

Before we went home, I cashed in my free slot play. Took home fifty bucks.

UPCOMING CONCERTS
(I’M NOT GOING TO HAIKU THEM)
(LOL JK I WILL)

Gowan, if I’m bored
Haven’t bought a ticket yet
Sometime in late June?

“Weird Al” Yankovic
Opener: Emo Philips
That’s on July 8

Spoon, July 19
Food Network copied their song
for the show The Main

Regina Folk Fest
This one will need two haikus
Buffy Sainte-Marie,
New Pornographers,
Lido Pimienta, more
First weekend August

Metric with Dear Rouge
August 19th they’re here on
the Doomscroller tour

Crash Test Dummies play
September 11 – uh…
I’ll leave that alone

After 2+ years
Joel Plaskett with Mo Kenney
17th of Sept.

SLCR #358: Glass Tiger (March 10, 2022)

April 5, 2022

Deserée is bonkers over Glass Tiger. I present this information merely as context; a way of explaining why, exactly, I was at a Glass Tiger show in 2022. She was there to watch the band, and the rest of us were there to watch her watch the band.

I updated the year, but otherwise, that’s how I started my last Glass Tiger review. In my mind, this was maybe 4 years ago, but no, it was more than 7 years ago. As if I need more evidence that the past few years have completely destroyed my sense of time. Is this review late? The calendar suggests so. But as far as I can tell, I was at this concert two days ago and also late last year. I don’t know anymore.

When I got the tickets, it felt like maybe we were coming out of this. Isn’t that quaint? We’d had tickets to see Glass Tiger back in early 2020, but it was one of the first shows that cancelled when the world went to pot. And now they were coming back, Mika and I were heading out to see them, and we were… not excited, really. Kind of anxious. I can handle doing stuff (to some degree), but I think it’ll be a while before I’m really INTO the idea of doing stuff.

This marked my first trip to the casino since all the everything. They’d used the downtime to renovate, so it was a bit disorienting. Looked nice in spots, had weird traffic flows in others. Mika and I both got smacked by this old woman’s bag and she seemed real indignant that we’d dare get in its way. “Old bag’s bag” would have worked better but I’m being kind and showing restraint.

We met up with Dez and Reagan, collected as many free slot play vouchers as we could (I wound up cashing out with $17 in free money) and took our seats. I got us a table up at the front; this was deemed acceptable. A local DJ introduced the show and we were off.

The place was nearly sold out and it was weird being around quite so many people. For the most part, it wasn’t a big deal – the only standing area was off to the side behind these bike rack style barricades. The beleaguered security staff was in charge of keeping the tipsy dancing ladies confined to the designated dancing zones; this proved difficult and eventually a gentleman in a blazer had to be summoned to provide reinforcements.

For the record, if you ever want to meet a whole lot of tipsy dancing ladies who are just slightly older than me, you could do a lot worse than a Glass Tiger concert.

I also saw the guy I always see at casino old-man rock concerts, the guy who looks like Ricky Morton. Truly, nature is healing.

As for the show itself, I could probably copy and paste most of my old review and it would all hold true. I still know more Glass Tiger songs than I realize and they’re still real catchy. They played pretty much all the hits you’d expect. And once again, the sound was a bit too loud for the venue. I can only say that with confidence after reading that I’d felt the same way last time; with no big concerts over the past few years, I couldn’t tell if maybe my judgment was just shot.

They did play a few new-to-me covers – Right Here Right Now and Heroes. The latter was prefaced by Alan Frew saying that “David” was missed, leading to – as I was later told – a conversation about who this mysterious David could possibly be. I’ll let you figure that one out on your own.

The show closer, to no surprise, was Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone. I haven’t learned where the parentheses go since last time and I’m not about to look it up now. This was the song where the not-particularly-strong-or-real dam of security guards and bike racks gave way and fans rushed up to the stage. At that point, I was pretty pleased with my decision to keep my mask on throughout the show.
Frew led a singalong and was thoroughly disappointed in the crowd’s inability to mimic a slightly longer than normal pause before the “my heart would break” part. I didn’t see what was so difficult about this and I famously can’t sing. Maybe I shouldn’t have spent all my skill points on “accurate pause lengths.” Eventually, he wanted just the men to sing “my heart would break,” at which point a stranger (presumably one of the tipsy dancing ladies, but I can’t keep track of everyone) turned to me and hollered “WE NEED YOU!” It turns out that not only do masks help stop you from getting and giving illnesses, but they also allow people to assume you’re singing when you’re merely miming for their approval. Mika seemed amused by the attention I was getting, saying “See? You’d be fine if I died.” She made me promise to include this part. She didn’t make me promise to explain it, however. Anyway, the women had to sing “my heart would break” next and the stranger was very encouraging to Mika as well. This led to more questions that shall not be answered or, indeed, contemplated here.

After the show, we waited around as the crowd thinned out, allowing Dez to get a picture with Alan Frew and an autograph on her stolen setlist. That worked out nicely for her and the other folks who were late in leaving. Maybe not so much for Frew, who probably just came out to visit with friends, but so it goes. He saw those tipsy dancing ladies, he knew the risks.

SLCR #339: The Tea Party (April 25, 2019)

May 14, 2019

As we were getting ready to head out for the show, Mika asked if I was excited to see Snake River. I was not, largely because I didn’t know what Snake River was, if something other than a river of snakes. It turns out that the Tea Party was on the Black River tour, named after their latest single, and Snake River is a local band that plays here fairly regularly. Simple enough to get mixed up.

I mention this because it led me to check and see who our actual openers were – The Proud Sons. The name is a little too close to The Proud Boys for my liking, but what the hell, they’re opening for the Tea Party, it fits really well. At least name-wise. I listened to a few songs from their EP and found they were a country band, which seemed like a very odd pairing with the Tea Party, who were all about being dark and brooding and mysterious, or at least they were when I was in university and they were at their commercial peak. When they came back through town on a reunion tour in 2011, I was surprised at how down-to-earth they seemed – but still not the kind of band that would have a country act opening for them. I assumed I’d found the wrong band on Apple Music.

We got to the casino and checked out the stuff table. Yep, it’s the same Proud Sons. Weird. But whatever, into the concert hall we went for people watching and a thematically appropriate playlist of 90s Canadian rock until the show began. This included a Tea Party song that was hastily skipped.

The Proud Sons are not quite as country in person as they were on their EP – still country, but leaning towards the rockier side of things. Mika checked, and none of them appear to be related to anyone in the Tea Party, and nobody from the Tea Party produced their EP, so this pairing will remain a mystery. Their set was fine, nice harmonies, nothing wrong with the show (well, maybe a touch too loud for the venue – and I maintain that if nobody knows your band, don’t tell the crowd to sing along or “put your hands in the air” because they won’t) – just such an odd fit.

And that’s about all I wrote before letting this sit for two weeks. I think I’m just not fit to review the Tea Party, who I was about as excited for as I had been for Snake River. I saw them – by which I mean the Tea Party, not Snake River, who this review is not actually about, not that you’d know – once in 1996 during the height of their popularity when a friend had a spare ticket. I knew very little about them and said friend was disgusted by that, given that it was a high-demand ticket to a sold-out show and basically wasted on me. I liked them well enough then – and in 2011, and again in 2017 – but they’re really just not my thing. They’re like I Mother Earth in that based on my age and tastes, I should like them, but they just never fully clicked with me. I go because Mika likes them and because I can be talked into any concert for any reason.

This was pretty similar to the show we saw back in 2017. And not just their own songs; they also played the same covers (or short segments thereof) as last time – With or Without You, Heroes, Paint It Black – though I think Bobcaygeon was a new addition. Ever since Gord Downie died, every Canadian band of a certain vintage has to incorporate a Hip song into their setlist by federal law; usually Bobcaygeon, but the Headstones got a special dispensation to play Blow at High Dough and New Orleans is Sinking instead. Crash Test Dummies didn’t play a Hip song at all when they were here last year and they’re all in jail now.

The new not-Snake-River single was fun. They tried out some other new stuff and asked us not to record it in case it sucked, but it was good, and they knew that. Really, the most noticeable difference was in their demeanor. Like I said, in 2011 they seemed appreciative and almost surprised that people would still come out to see them. Since then, they’ve had a few successful tours and the new single has been a big hit on rock radio (for whatever that means in 2019) and that really seems to have boosted their confidence. Lead singer Jeff Martin had a lot more swagger and was back to coming across more like a rock star, and the crowd responded accordingly, so maybe listen to them and not me.

I always worry about the “it was fine” reviews because I fear they come across as “I hated it.” And talking to the four people who read these things can sometimes back that up. So I’ll just say it was a Tea Party concert for Tea Party fans. It was enjoyable and met my expectations but didn’t convert me. After four shows, I’m sensing a pattern.

UPCOMING CONCERTS:
• Foxwarren w/Hannah Cohen (May 29)
• Regina Folk Festival w/Bahamas, A Tribe Called Red, The Dead South, Weaves, Emilie Kahn, more (August 9)
• “Weird Al” Yankovic (August 21)
• Elton John (October 1)
• Thrush Hermit (October 4)

SLCR #330: Headstones (November 13, 2018)

November 19, 2018

Headstones reviews are hard to write. They’re really fun shows, but more or less the same every time out. You know it’ll be loud, lots of swearing, probably some spitting (though this has been dialed this back over time and I can’t say I mind), Hugh Dillon will run around in the crowd a lot. I even know which covers they’re going to play. All of this is fine – it doesn’t stop me from going to see them every time they come through town. But I could rerun old reviews for the most part. Hopefully I’ll have enough sense to make this short.

Got to the casino with plenty of time to pick up my ticket. No incidents this time out. Saw the same guy from work that I always see at Headstones shows. Killed time playing phone games until the show started. Christ, this is riveting.

Our openers were the Matchstick Skeletons, who got off to an inauspicious start through no fault of their own when the local radio idiot introduced them as the Matchbox Skeletons before correcting himself. They were fine. Decidedly better than Snake and the Chain from the last show, but far less memorable as a result. “You didn’t suck so bad that I’ll remember you forever” is probably not as much of a compliment as I intend it to be.

They felt restrained at points; the harder songs with more energy were fun, but too many just didn’t quite get there. They also covered Fame and (part of) When Doves Cry and it’s an interesting choice to cover well-known songs by legends. They can be crowd-pleasing numbers but you’re probably not going to compare favourably to David Bowie or Prince – few will. At least When Doves Cry was redone as a rock song, as opposed to the note-for-note soundalike version of Fame.

Speaking of covers, I am the last person on Earth to realize that the Headstones song Tweeter and the Monkey Man is a Traveling Wilburys cover. This is doubly egregious because Mika has played the Wilburys song for me before, years ago, but I forget things. Apparently the Wilburys version has more verses and makes more sense. Talking to Jeff about this, he said that it sounds more like the Wilburys slowed down a Headstones song than the Headstones sped up a Wilburys song. Personally, listening to the Wilburys’ version now, it sounds like when Mika and I are on a road trip and she makes us listen to podcasts at 1X speed instead of my normal 1.5X.

The Headstones were touring to promote the 25th anniversary re-issue of Picture of Health, their first album. This would probably make me feel super old if I was listening to them then. The entire set, before the encore, was the album in full. So a little less variation than their normal shows, but whatever, it’s a good album, lots of songs I like on it. As before, Dillon ran into the crowd a bunch and I felt for the poor techs and security staff who had to chase after him. And as before, they played a bit of Low Rider and New Orleans is Sinking.

After Tweeter, which is four songs in, Dillon asked the crowd to put their phones away so he could tell stories and we could watch the show, adding that he’d let us bring them back out later. Most folks cheered and happily did so. One guy tried taking a video of the next song, which seemed like an unwise choice given that he was close enough to the front for Dillon to see him, and Dillon had already shown a propensity for running out into the crowd. Phone went away. “I’m not going to kick you out or anything, I’m just asking you to be a man of your fucking word.”

The stage setup was pretty simple, but the lights, fog machines, and projector were all employed to good effect and gave the show a really cool look. I got a few pictures at the start and a few more during the encore once the ban was lifted, but I won’t lie – there were still a few times when I would have liked to snap a quick picture. Which is dumb; they never look good and I never go back and look through old ones. Regardless, I wasn’t about to risk incurring the wrath (or disappointment, which would be worse) of Dillon.

I won’t go into detail on the stories – if he didn’t want them recorded, he probably didn’t want them transcribed either – but it was a lot of stuff about growing up in Kingston. Some of it funny, some of it touching. Dillon went to high school with the guys from the Tragically Hip, Finny McConnell from the Mahones, and David Usher. What a ridiculous amount of talent in just a few years.

For the encore, they started with the cover of The Gambler that they now seem to do at every show. Dillon then polled the audience to see what they wanted to hear, and the calls for Cubically Contained lost out to Unsound. Or maybe that was just the plan all along. They also played Fuck You and Smile and Wave and, somewhere in there, a bit of The House of the Rising Sun. Nothing I hadn’t seen before. And Dillon said they’re coming back in 2020 and I’ll see it all again then.

SLCR #323: Crash Test Dummies (October 11, 2018)

October 17, 2018

You may recall that last summer, I saw the Crash Test Dummies at the Canada Games in Winnipeg.

You may also recall that I became a fan long ago, somehow wound up running their website, and still keep in touch with them a little bit, by which I mean mostly Ellen, and mostly through cat pictures and Letterkenny quotes. I’ve told that story enough.

Anyway, as a long-time fan, I’ve seen them go from being big stars to… let’s just say the opposite of that. The band never officially split up, but album sales dropped off and everyone eventually moved on to do their own thing. That show last year would have made a perfect final chapter to their story. After years apart, the band (mostly) reunites to headline a festival in front of a huge adoring hometown crowd who’s singing along with every word. The concert even ended with fireworks. Freeze frame, roll credits, bonus scene where they’re all enjoying shawarmas.

However, things took a different turn. The band enjoyed their Winnipeg show so much that there was talk of a reunion tour – just a few gigs. That turned into a half-dozen dates in western Canada, eleven in the US, and others to be announced soon. And what’s more, they’re doing well. The press release announcing the US shows got picked up by some large outlets, and Calgary, Saskatoon, and Regina sold out. When they were here last time in 2010, they only half-sold the Exchange. This is a little unexpected (at least by me), but I’m happy and excited for them.

And then we almost didn’t get into the show.

Mika and I got to the casino a little after 7:30 and went to pick up our tickets from the will call. And… nothing. No tickets printed out and waiting in their little ticket box. No record of the purchase on my file. They checked my ID, ran my info repeatedly, found other tickets I’ve bought for upcoming shows. But for the Dummies? Nothing. Jeff showed up and joined Mika off to the side while the boring drama unfolded. The guy at the ticket booth next to me appeared to be having the same issue. The people behind us in line were loving us. I had my phone with the email receipt, which probably saved the day. Eventually, the clerk took some blank tickets, handwrote our seat info, and sent us inside. I was quite certain that this would fail, but it didn’t. And I was even more certain that someone would be waiting at our table, but again, no. Unlikely success!

In retrospect, I do remember the pre-order being particularly glitchy and having to fight to get my order through. And this might also mean the show wasn’t technically sold out, since there was an empty seat at our table. I bought three tickets at a table that seats four; later, I looked into buying the fourth ticket to prevent some random weirdo from sitting with us (I only want weirdos of my choosing), but it said it had been sold. Thanks, God or random ticketing system glitch! You saved me some money. And since the seat wasn’t available to be sold, I declare that the sellout stands.

With no opener, the show was underway at 8:00 on the nose. Business was meant and bedtimes were to be adhered to. As mentioned, the band was (mostly) reunited, with Brad Roberts, Ellen Reid, Dan Roberts, and Mitch Dorge joined by touring guitarists Murray Pulver and Stuart Cameron, and a keyboardist I don’t think I’ve seen before who I’m about 60% sure was named Marc. No sign of original member Benjamin Darvill, who’s still finding success as blues harmonica beatbox oddball Son of Dave. I’m mostly out of the loop these days, but the one piece of insider gossip I’d love to know is whether or not anyone asked Ben if he wanted to do the tour. I suppose it doesn’t matter since I can’t imagine he had any interest.

The setlist for the show wound up pretty similar to last summer’s, which was mostly a greatest hits collection with a few new songs thrown in. They opened with God Shuffled His Feet (during which Ellen spotted me and gave me a subtle wave) and Replacements cover Androgynous. I’ve seen the Dummies six times now and these are two of the five songs that they’ve played at each show; the others being the only two songs most of you would know, Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm and Superman’s Song, and Ellen’s big showcase (and XTC cover) The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead.

After all these shows, I still heard a few songs that I hadn’t seen them play live before. In preparation for their US dates, where they’re playing the God Shuffled His Feet album all the way through, they did When I Go Out With Artists. During a block of songs from their most recent album Ooh-La-La (now eight years old), they played Not Today Baby. And then Ellen stepped up to sing one of Brad’s songs, her favourite Dummies song. I was pretty excited for this – I’d never heard her do one of his songs before.

“And not only is it my favourite Crash Test Dummies song, but my favourite Crash Test Dummies fan is here tonight.”

I may have quietly said one tiny swear word.

Ellen called me out by name, pointed at our table, and dedicated the song My Own Sunrise to me.

“Well, it’s an overtly sexual song, so it’s not FOR YOU. But it’s for you.”

That she’d say or do anything at all was really sweet, especially coming at least a full decade since I’ve had any sort of official involvement with the band. But moreover, it was a song I hadn’t heard live before in a way I’d never heard. Over the years, I’ve tracked down all the rarities that are out there – I’m pretty sure that McSweeny’s article was about me – but this was brand new and super exciting and honestly really special.

Mika, as soon as the song was over: “Did Ellen just sing you a song about boners?”

I mean, technically, yes. A radio-friendly song about boners. My own sunrise! Metaphors!

So. Ellen’s take on the song was great, but I might be biased now and you’ll have to go see them live to hear it anyway. She followed it up with Make You Mine, introducing it with “This song is about being angry, which I’m not, because I’m 52 and I’m over it.” This is my favourite song off her 2001 solo album, something else I’d never heard done live before and something I definitely wasn’t expecting. At this point, I was all in – hearing these two songs back-to-back made me feel like I was back at that first concert at the peak of my fandom. I had been looking forward to the show but really wasn’t expecting to get this invested in it.

The main set was done in about an hour, though they did four more songs when they came back out. I may have gotten chastised for not standing to applaud. And then told to remain standing once I did get up. A highlight of the encore was my favourite Dummies’ song, Afternoons and Coffeespoons, with just Brad and Ellen singing and Stuart on guitar – a real showcase for him. Of the Dummies shows I’ve seen, this was probably the best one musically, but hiring Stuart and Murray to play in your band is like hiring Daryl Strawberry and Ken Griffey Jr. to play on your company softball team. Just keep those boys away from the brain and nerve tonic.

The band killed it, Ellen stole the show, and Brad sounded like he ever did, except more relaxed. Really, what stood out to me was that everyone seemed to be having so much fun. Especially Brad – there were moments where he was genuinely smiling and laughing and I know that sounds super weird, but he always comes across as very performative when he’s on stage, so it was good to see him let his guard down.

Here’s the whole setlist:

God Shuffled His Feet
Androgynous
The Ghosts That Haunt Me
Swimming in Your Ocean
The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead
Heart of Stone
Not Today Baby
Songbird
In the Days of the Caveman
When I Go Out With Artists
My Own Sunrise
Make You Mine
Two Knights and Maidens
Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
-encore-
Afternoons & Coffeespoons
He Liked to Feel It
Put A Face
Superman’s Song

Jeff headed out when it was over (after facilitating a vital Pokémon trade between me and his wife which I did my best to thwart), and Mika and I stuck around to quickly say hi to the band and get handshakes and hugs and a brief serenade. Possibly this all didn’t happen quickly enough, according to the people in line behind us, but that’s why we waited until almost everyone else had gone through the line. Apparently it was a day of being bad at casino lines.

SLCR #313 – “Weird Al” Yankovic – June 1, 2018

June 11, 2018

The thing about a Weird Al show is that the format is always the same. Lots of costume changes. Lots of video clips between songs to accommodate the costume changes. A bunch of songs off the newest album and lots of his classics – hey, he paid for that fat suit, may as well get as much use out of it as he can. And it ends with Yoda. There’s a chant in Yoda. It gets longer with every tour.

Understand, I’m not complaining. Just making an observation. There were eleven years between my first and second Al concerts, and even with that gap, that second show felt pretty familiar. You get some new songs, costumes, sets, and videos every time out, but still.

If this was a little samey for me, one wonders what it would be like for Al and his band. The theatrics and the choreography, while fun, mean that his show is heavily scripted and there isn’t room for improvisation or mixing things up. There’s no opportunity to say “screw it, let’s play Running With Scissors front-to-back tonight.” It’s pretty much set in stone.

A while back, I read an interview where Al talked of doing a different kind of tour, one geared toward hardcore fans. Smaller venues, no costumes or videos, and – the biggest change – he’d forego his famous parodies in favour of playing his lesser-known original songs. A different setlist every night, even. This was extremely my thing. I didn’t think it would actually happen, but sure enough, last fall, Al announced the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour. While I was definitely prepared to travel for this, instead, he was coming here. What a groovy guy! Now I just had to wait the eight months for the tour to get here.

Having experienced the VIP… uh… experience the last time out, Mika and I got normal seats this time like god damned commoners. We went to the show with Jason (from my work) and his wife Melissa – you may remember them from at least one previous concert (Corb Lund) that we went to (translation: I totally invited myself along to their night out). Lots of parenthetical asides in this paragraph but they’re all very important to give you the full story.

Before the show, Jason said he was hoping for Trigger Happy and The Night Santa Went Crazy (the extra-gory version) (obviously). My picks were The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, Stop Forwarding that Crap to Me, and Skipper Dan. Looking at setlists from other cities, I knew at least some of these were in play. I wasn’t about to get my hopes up, though.

We got to the show and I took a quick look at the stuff table. Nothing too exciting. The usual shirts and stuff. There were some enamel pins that were nice but expensive and I’d never wear them anyway. I also saw something that indicated that all of the concerts from this tour were going to be made available on Stitcher Premium, a for-pay podcast service. Took a peek and didn’t see anything yet. If this does come to pass, I’d give it a shot.

Long ago, Al used to have local comedians opening for him. I only ever saw this once, at my first Al show in 1996. I don’t remember much about the comedian. He worked clean, albeit with a lot of poop jokes. And hockey jokes. And he combined them to make Darren Puppa jokes. Again, it was 1996. Shortly thereafter – and probably having nothing to do with the guy who opened at my show – Al quit having opening acts. He found it hard to vet the comedians, so sometimes the opener would wind up using material that was inappropriate for the audience. Plus, as Al’s show became more elaborate, it also became longer, making an opener feel less necessary. But for this tour, he was bringing an opener with him – Emo Philips. Philips is best known to Al fans as the shop teacher who accidentally saws his fingers off in the movie UHF. Or at least best known to me for that – I hadn’t heard any of his actual stand-up before this. Turns out his delivery is actually quite similar to that of his UHF character, soft-spoken and stilted. I can see some people not being into that, though I thought he was pretty funny. He worked clean and mostly told one-liners – “I like to play chess with old men in the park, but where do you ever find 32 of them?” – with a few physical bits thrown in too. The crowd seemed to really like him, though there was one pun that didn’t get nearly enough love and one aside I loved that went completely unrecognized. So it goes.

Following a brief break, Al’s band entered and played the instrumental tune Fun Zone before Al entered and launched right into Close but no Cigar (with Al playing what I can only call the rattly percussion thing). We wound up with a 19-song set spanning Al’s entire career. There were classics (You Don’t Love Me Anymore), songs I’d entirely forgotten (I Remember Larry), and songs that would maybe be best forgotten (Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung). Buy Me A Condo stood out as particularly dated, both because I’m pretty sure a white guy trying to sound Jamaican wouldn’t fly today and, more so, it suggests that “wall-to-wall carpeting” is a status symbol instead of something to rip out.

There were also some of Al’s soundalike style parodies, like the Dylanesque all-palindrome song Bob and the I-didn’t-realize-it-was-supposed-to-sound-like-the-B-52s-but-in-my-defence-I-was-very-young-when-I-first-heard-it Mr. Popeil. And, what with it being June and all, they played Al’s entire catalogue of Christmas songs – both of them. And yes, it was the extra-gory version of The Night Santa Went Crazy, so I’ve now heard a theatre full of nerds cheer at the announcement that Santa Claus has been caught and compromised to a permanent end.

During the more energetic songs, there was one guy who’d jump out of his seat, run up to the front at the far edge of the stage, and, indeed, dance like no one was watching. I don’t know how one cultivates the attitude of “yes, I will be the only person at this whole concert dancing wildly to Party at the Leper Colony.” Maybe you have to be born with it? I don’t know. But I feel like maybe it’s something to aspire to. Not that particular song – even Al said he wasn’t proud of it – but the general idea. I think that dude probably had more fun at this show than the rest of us. And he was even considerate enough to not block anyone’s view.

For the encore, Al asked for requests and everyone went nuts. He finally decided that he’d choose one person and play whatever they wanted – so of course, he picked his guitarist, who wanted to hear some Black Crowes, so that’s what they played. Every night on this tour, they’ve been playing a different cover song. Not a parody – just a straight cover. Ours was Hard to Handle. Looking at some others they’ve played recently (including Rebel Rebel, Magic Carpet Ride, Summer Nights, All Right Now, Aqualung, Foxey Lady, and Good Lovin’), I’m very pleased with the one we got – it would have been my pick out of all of those. I suspect Al had a cheat sheet for the lyrics – he seemed to spend a lot of time looking at something that wasn’t the crowd – but maybe I was just seeing things that weren’t there. Either way, it didn’t hurt things any if he did.

People who really wanted the parodies weren’t entirely out of luck. For the last song before the encore, the band started into the unplugged version of Layla, but Al sang Eat It instead. This kicked off a medley of some of his most famous parodies, all with new incongruous arrangements. And after Hard to Handle, they finished with his American Pie parody, The Saga Begins. Always gotta end with Star Wars – though as different as this whole show was, not ending with Yoda and the chant still stuck out.

Here’s the whole setlist, taken from setlist.fm in a rare case where I don’t have to complain about how wrong it is:

Fun Zone
Close But No Cigar
Bob
Buy Me a Condo
Christmas at Ground Zero
Good Enough for Now
I Remember Larry
If That Isn’t Love
Airline Amy
You Don’t Love Me Anymore
I Was Only Kidding
The Night Santa Went Crazy (extra-gory version)
Party at the Leper Colony
Mr. Popeil
Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung
Jackson Park Express
medley: Eat It / I Lost on Jeopardy / Amish Paradise / Smells Like Nirvana / White & Nerdy / I Love Rocky Road / Like a Surgeon
–encore–
Hard to Handle (Black Crowes cover)
The Saga Begins

As we left, Mika asked if I got to hear all the songs I wanted. Honestly, I didn’t – I went 0-for-3 with my wishlist. So I definitely would have changed the songs up if given the chance, but I still was glad with what we got and happy just to see a show on this tour at all. I got a new appreciation for some songs I’d overlooked or forgotten, and do I even need to mention that Al and his band were great? (I pretend that these are “reviews,” so I guess, yeah.) They’re all super talented and complete professionals, switching seemingly effortlessly between musical genres from song to song. I suppose you don’t have a celebrated 40-year career without working hard and being good at your job. Good thing I’m fine with an uncelebrated one.

UPCOMING CONCERTS:
• BA Johnston w/Johnny 2 Fingers & The Deformities (June 15)
• The Flaming Lips w/Wand (June 22)
• Gateway Festival feat. Kathleen Edwards, Steven Page, John K. Samson, Elliott BROOD, more (July 28)
• Arkells (August 2)
• Regina Folk Festival feat. Neko Case, Tanya Tagaq, more (August 11)
• Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls (September 12)
• The Fred Eaglesmith Show Starring Tif Ginn (September 23)
• Cadence Weapon w/Fat Tony and Hua Li (October 2)
• Crash Test Dummies (October 11)
• They Might Be Giants (October 20)
• Hawksley Workman & the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (April 13)

SLCR #310: Letterkenny Live (March 29, 2018)

April 18, 2018

Tacking a half-assed bonus review onto the end of a real concert review (if you can call what I do that) (you likely shouldn’t) is a semi-regular feature that I haven’t used in a while. Or at least that’s what I thought. Looking back at the Big Word Document of Old Reviews, it turns out that I’ve done this all of three times. And the last one was in 2007. And it still is – this was going to be a rush job, a hidden treat (again, likely not) for anyone who bothered to read to the end of my Sloan review, but I’m pretty sure this is longer and I spent more time on it, so now it’s its own thing.

I don’t normally review non-concerts, but for this show, I had actual requests. Or a request, anyway, which is infinitely more interest than anyone – including myself – ever shows in these things.

Letterkenny is a Canadian comedy on CraveTV. For the rest of the world, you can find the first seasons of the show on DVD. More relevantly here in 2018, they’re surely on your choice of let’s-all-collectively-pretend-it’s-legal Android streaming box. Letterkenny follows the adventures of a small rural community’s hicks, skids, and hockey players; adventures which amount to a lot of drinking, fighting, and wordplay. Mostly that last one. Anecdotally, it seemed like a decent number of people I knew watched the show, but I didn’t realize it was popular enough to quickly sell out the casino, add a second show later that night, and sell that out too. They’d later tell us that Regina had the fastest sellouts on the whole tour. Pitter-patter indeed.

The shows were built around stand-up sets by Mark Forward (who plays the coach of the Letterkenny Irish) and K. Trevor Wilson, who plays Squirrely Dan. If I tell you the jokes, the jokes aren’t funny anymore. I suppose that doesn’t much matter now that I sat on this forever and the tour is long over. But still. Of the two, Forward was, well, more forward, berating the audience for a perceived restrained reaction, and going into the crowd to find one woman who had a particularly distinct laugh. Wilson’s set was decidedly less confrontational. Of the attendees I talked to (all three of them), they all enjoyed both but preferred Forward’s set. I can see the appeal of both. Wilson’s more traditional act would fit well in an episode of Just For Laughs – I can make this trenchant insight because I’ve seen him on Just For Laughs – while Forward was working harder to try different things and grab people’s attention. Though as someone in a floor seat, I do prefer to not run the risk of becoming part of the show. I might be 10-ply.

I’ll note that as Wilson took the stage, he entered to a familiar-sounding piano tune. Before I could say anything, yep, it was Bobby Roode’s Glorious theme. Half of you are very familiar with this. For the rest of you, it’s a wrestling thing, don’t worry about it (but maybe Google it because you should hear it at least once). Wilson was also wearing an Austin Aries t-shirt (another wrestling thing, don’t worry about it), which I tried to point out to Mika, but she cut me off, saying “yes, I noticed. This is my life now.” On one episode of Letterkenny, Squirrely Dan compares the subtle differences betweens the Texas cloverleaf and the scorpions deathlock; I thinks it’s safe to says he wrote that bit himself.

The rest of the show featured live skits starring the three main characters (Wayne, Daryl, and Squirrely Dan) – some new, some fan favourites. A bit of the new material was unique to Regina, which was appreciated. If you’ve seen the show, you might know what I’m referring to when I say one of the classic bits featured a game of Would You Rather, while another saw Squirrely Dan – not one to kiss and tell – recount his night out with a girl and where she reckoned attentions needs to be paid. There were also a few videos – one clip from the new Easter special, and two that were new (at least to me): motivational advice from the hockey coach and an ad for Daryl’s dairy.

The new videos were pretty funny, and the live material translated well from TV, which makes sense – the show focuses on witty dialogue and less on physical or visual humour which would be more difficult to replicate in a live setting. I really enjoyed this, and while I wouldn’t have said no to more new Letterkenny material and fewer bits lifted from the series, to be faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaair (you know they saved that until the end and you know it got the best reaction of the night) we got exactly what was promised and the adoring sold-out crowd ate everything up. I’d say it was ferda if I had any idea how to use that word properly or what it even meant.

SLCR #304: Corb Lund (November 23, 2017)

November 29, 2017

I like Corb Lund. Saw him before and enjoyed it. Wanted to see him again. Not everything is interesting.

With Mika in school, on this night I was accompanied by Jason and Melissa, a friend from work and his wife. You may recall them from when we went to see the UFC in Saskatoon together, except that wasn’t a concert so I didn’t tell you about that. Jason was kind enough to not only let me invite myself along with them but he even picked up our tickets. He put us in the front row of the balcony; fine work.

The last time I saw Corb Lund at the casino, you may remember that I complained about all the big-ass trucks in the parking lot. It turns out that I didn’t know from big-ass trucks; when you go see a country singer while Agribition is on, it’s a whole ‘nother level. Of trucks. As is becoming tradition, I composed and sang a song to myself during the ever-frustrating drive through the casino parkade. It had swears.

I’ve mostly never been to Agribition. Doesn’t seem like my thing. One time I walked past a bunch of closed exhibits to go see Willie Nelson at the Brandt Centre, but I don’t think that counts. I know very little about it other than when it’s on, you can’t find a hotel room in town. Folks from all over the province come in big-ass trucks to see… I don’t know, whatever there is to see at an agricultural exhibition. They also like going to country shows.

I got to the casino with 10 minutes to spare and met up with Jason and Melissa in the balcony. The last Corb show at the casino had floor seating too, which wasn’t quite ideal for a crowd that wanted to get drunk and rowdy. This time, they’d left the floor as standing-room, which… again, not quite ideal. You can’t win, casino. Earlier in the day, I read that this show and tour was called “BS With CL” – instead of a full band, Corb was going to be out there by himself with just a guitar. There was a phone number where you could text Corb your questions and he’d answer some of them and tell stories as the show went on. I thought it was a little odd that there was no mention of this in any of the casino’s advertising for the show (at least, nothing that I saw). Had I not seen that one Facebook post, I’d have been expecting a normal concert. Don’t get me wrong – I’d rather see something unique. I just think if an artist is going to be doing something markedly different from normal, you might want to tell people before they buy tickets. The casino is very upfront about Weird Al’s upcoming show being a significant departure from his usual shenanigans, and Saskatoon’s Broadway Theatre used the BS With CL name and description in advertising, so I don’t know what happened here.

I wasn’t sure if we were getting an opener, but the show was kicked off by Mike Plume. I knew the name, not sure from where. He’s pals with Corb and I suspect if you like one, you’d like them both. He sang a short set with a lot of Canadiana – songs about hockey and Stompin’ Tom and working in Fort Mac and Remembrance Day and the country itself. It seemed like he won the crowd over by the end of it – the ode to Stompin’ Tom was a particular favourite and has been stuck in my head off and on since then.

Corb was out after a noticeably brief intermission, and yep, the whole set was just him and a guitar (apart from a few songs where he was joined by Plume, so it was two guys with guitars). I don’t think you could complain about the setlist – it was packed with old and new favourites and there wasn’t much you could have been left wanting. Looking over Corb’s discography now, it occurs to me that 1) I’ve listened to a fair bit of his music, 2) it’s real good, and 3) he sampled pretty evenly from all his records. Really, if you wanted the Corb Lund starter kit, this setlist was perfect. The biggest reactions were saved for Five-Dollar Bill and The Truck Got Stuck, as well as anything that mentioned Saskatchewan or places therein (Hurtin’ Albertan, Long Gone to Saskatchewan, and the one Plume song they did together, The Big American Headliner). Really, between Lund and Plume, there’s no way I’ve been to a show with more local references, and they’re both no-good Albertans. Plume may be a transplant from New Brunswick, but still. No-good Albertan.

As far as the BS part went, there really wasn’t a ton. Corb had his phone on stage and checked it for questions, but there wasn’t much more talking than a normal show. He went into a little detail about Talkin’ Veterinarian Blues, Family Reunion, The Truck Got Stuck, and personal favourite S Lazy H. A lot of his stories centred on which of the songs are based on true stories. Answer: a lot of them, though they have made-up parts too. Which is what you’d expect.

I thought this was great, but it did seem like maybe this wasn’t the show the Agribition crowd wanted. You could hear an awful lot of distracting talking coming from the folks on the floor. I think there was a pretty sizable contingent that wanted to get drunk and rowdy and this didn’t really provide the opportunity. I mean, some did anyway, but nowhere near what you’d expect. I really dig Corb but find his fans to be a bit much sometimes. I keep going to see him, since he’s great and all, but you need to prepare yourself for the drunken yahoos you may encounter. This seemed like it was less of a show for them and more for me, so, y’know, no complaints here.

I say “Corb Lund fans” as if I’m not one, but somehow, Corb became one of my favourite musicians. I didn’t even really realize it until I was thinking about it today and realized just how much of his stuff I know well and enjoy. I’ve liked him for a long time, but I wouldn’t have ever thought to list him among my very favourites, but somehow, that happened and I didn’t even realize it.

Or to put it all another way, enjoyed it. Want to see him again.