Blue RodeoCanadian Music Hall of Famers Blue Rodeo graced the stage of Kitchener’s Center in The Square this past Saturday for the second of two packed nights. The set list was heavy on early work with a sprinkling of songs from the band’s most recent studio album Many a Mile.

Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor were in fine form this night, sounding surprisingly fresh after playing the two nights previously. These guys have been playing together for over 40 years since having met in high school and a few years ago were starting to feel the wear and tear of the road. Enter the pandemic and for many people it gave them a new perspective on things. In the case of Blue Rodeo, it gave them a much-needed rest and a chance to create new music.

 

This is a band packed with musical talent and it was very evident in the guitar playing of Colin Cripps and Jimmy Bowskill. Cripps played several solos during the night and showed his phenomenal guitar skills as well as some guitar duelling with Bowskill. Bowskill was back and forth often between the keyboards, guitar and mandolin. This is a guy who was nominated for a Juno at age 14 and played on stage for the first time at age 11 in Jeff Healey’s Toronto club. At times with Cuddy and Keelor strumming acoustic there were 4 guitars playing.

Original member Bazil Donovon on bass, 30 years member Glenn Milchem slaying on drums and Michael Boguski on keys and accordion rounded out the group and put on a clinic.

The majority of people in attendance knew the lyrics to the songs and happily joined in singing on a handful of hits. Several times people stood and danced along to the more energetic tunes like Till I Am Myself Again. For the last song of the main set, Hasn’t Hit Me Yet, Greg Keelor asked the crowd to get up and sing along at the top of their voices.

The energy stayed high for the first song of the encore, You’re Everywhere, a fast-paced rockabilly tune that had everyone on their feet. The night finished with their big hit Try followed by Lost Together with opening act The Surfrajettes joining them on stage and the entire crowd joining in the chorus. Lost Together has become a big anthem for the band the last few years and was a great way to end the evening.

Opening act The Surfrajettes warmed the crowd up with their modern take on 60’s surf guitar. The band has gotten a lot of attention in a few short years, thanks in part to a viral YouTube video of their version of Britney Spears Toxic. Blue Rodeo’s Colin Cripps produced their 2022 debut album Roller Fink and he knows a thing or two about surf guitar having formed the side project C and C Surf factory with Champagne James Robertson a decade ago. I heard from a reliable source that it was actually Greg Keelor, who is also a fan who asked the band to open for Blue Rodeo at the Kitchener dates.

Musically, the band is a dream. Guitarists Shermy Freeman and Nicole Damoff are the core of the sound with their vintage surf guitar setups and Fender amps giving that clean tone and tons of reverb. Holding down the Rhythm section is Sarah Butler on bass and newest member, drummer Annie Lillis. Visually the band transports you to a place about 60 years ago with their vintage look clothing, white go-go boots and beehive hair styles.

The band’s set consists of a mix of covers of classic surf songs, surf covers of pop songs like Blondie’s Heart of Glass and The Beatles She Loves You and originals like Warm Up and Roller Fink off their debut album that are destined to become classics themselves. I can’t praise this band enough!They really satisfy my need for fun, danceable music with a big dose of nostalgia and I really want to hear them play on a warm beach someday with a cold rum punch in my hand.

Blue Rodeo / The Surfrajettes
Centre In The Square
January 7, 2023
Kitchener, ON

All photos by Dan Boshart

Blue Rodeo:

The Surfrajettes

Blue Rodeo Set List

  • Trust Yourself
  • Diamond Mine
  • What Am I Doing Here
  • Head Over Heels
  • Bad Timing
  • Ride Your Bike
  • Rose-Coloured Glasses
  • I Can’t Hide This Anymore
  • I Think About You
  • Disappear
  • Dark Angel
  • 5 Days in May
  • I Will Wait for You
  • The Railroad
  • (Lee Hazlewood cover)
  • Til I Am Myself Again
  • When You Were Wild
  • After the Rain
  • Hasn’t Hit Me Yet

Encore:

  • You’re Everywhere
  • Try
  • Lost Together
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