Blue Rodeo are about as Canadian as it gets. Spanning three decades of radio hits and a new album called 1000 Arms, the classic pop/country/rock band pulled into Caesars Windsor for a passionate night of Canadiana on Friday night (Dec. 1, 2017) and fans loved it.
Funny thing, I’ve seen the band live in concert six times since their debut album Outskirts came out in 1987 and every time I approached the shows with a bit of callousness – they never excited me and I would always end up contemplate going. I’ve seen them in Kingston, Brockville, Toronto, Regina, Vancouver and now here in Windsor, and every time was the same – it’s Blue Rodeo, do I really want to see them again?
Obviously, something wasn’t connecting when I thought about the band – I met a gentleman at the Windsor show who had seen them in concert more than 80 times and pretty much predicted the set list – he certainly understood the phenomenon better than I.
The thing about Blue Rodeo that I can’t seem to get through my thick skull is that these guys are a different band in concert than they are on album and I enjoy being there. While songs like Hasn’t Hit Me Yet and Til I Am Myself Again are songs from my youth, it isn’t until the band plays them live that the emotions rip through my body.
Undeniable fact: the live band is one of the tightest units in Canada and the show is usually jammed with hit after hit. Windsor was another example of just that. Only two of the songs, I Can’t Hide This Anymore and Superstar, were from the new album and they opened the show with a big one – 5 Days In May, followed immediately by the awesomely cool Cynthia from the same 1993 album.
Another nifty treat was a cover of Neil Young’s Are You Ready For The Country, which they performed to celebrate Young’s live television broadcast from his hometown of Omemee, Ontario that same night.
“We all can’t be in Omemee tonight,” Greg Keelor told the crowd. “But the man is in Omemee tonight.”
As one of the band’s two lead vocalists, Keelor, was fun to watch bounce around the stage singing cool songs like Lost Together and The Railroad, the latter of which has thankfully been resurrected back into the set. Although he seemed to mess up a backstory about a song and he thought it was still November when he said goodbye at the end, all is forgiven through the music and good times.
Their other main vocalist, Jim Cuddy, was also in Windsor for a special solo show the night before when The CP Holiday Train pulled into town. He gave a strong Christmasy performance out of a boxcar for anyone willing to head to the railyard to listen and donate whatever they could to the local food banks. He’s a bit more on the pop side than the entertaining country-rock shenanigans of Keelor, but Cuddy has a slick and clean voice that grabs you. His outstanding performance of Try was mind-blowing. He still had a genuine smile on his face as he sang the 1989 Juno Single of the Year – you could tell he loves singing that song even now and it not only showed in his face, but the smile shined through his voice the entire song.
For the thousands at Caesars on Friday, the show was an amazing time – and they knew it far before I did. For me, it was another chance for Blue Rodeo to remind me that they’re an ass kicking live band and I’ve enjoyed myself immensely each time.
Blue Rodeo is Jim Cuddy on vocals and guitar, Greg Keelor on vocals and guitar, Bazil Donovan on bass, Glen Milchem on drums and vocals, Mike Boguski on keyboards, and Colin Cripps on guitar and vocals. Bob Egan (guitar/pedal steel/mandolin) still appears on the band’s website and in some press photos, but has left the band to work at the Kitchener Public Library.
5 Days In May
I Can’t Hide This Anymore
Fools Like You
What Am I Doing Here
Are You ready For The Country (Neil Young cover)
Tell Me Again
After The Rain
Til I Am Myself Again
Hasn’t Hit Me Yet
Little Ole Wine Drinker Me (vocals by Bazil Donovan)
Photos by Dan Savoie