One of the big highlights of any given concert year is the annual performance from Windsor supergroup The S’Aints, a project compiled of several notable local musicians who band together to raise cash for local food banks. This year marked the group’s first public Christmas concert since COVID brought the world to its knees.
The Christmas-themed fundraising concert at Caesars Windsor was originally planned for December 23, 2022, but due to a massive storm hitting North America, it was postponed to December 29. The concert, held in conjunction with Caesars Windsor Cares, and St. Clair College announced the grand total of proceeds raised by the 2022 Sleighing Hunger charity concert. Thanks to an incredible community response, The Windsor Essex Food Bank Association and Chatham Outreach for Hunger received $102,534 to share amongst 16 food banks in the region.
Band members Jody Raffoul, Jeff Burrows, Wes Buckley, Kelly (Mr. Chill) Hoppe, David Cyrenne, Kelly Authier, Marty Bak, Liz Robinson, Stephanie Baker and Jim O’Neil performed Christmas songs with a rock twist, as well as songs of peace and love. Joined by a horn section, choir, the Raffoul brothers (including Billy and Peter) and a special dance performance from Santa Claus (who knew Santa had those funky dance moves).
The concert was a little toned down from the glitz and glam of past S’Aints shows. Instead of feeling like a Poison spectacle, it felt a bit like being at a Bruce Springsteen Christmas concert, which actually worked well with Jody Raffoul’s storytelling voice and highlighted the music all the more.
Although The S’Aints aren’t a full-time band, they certainly have the camaraderie and tightness you’d expect and find in bands that play together all the time. Sounding tighter than the recent Barenaked Ladies Christmas concert at Caesars, The S’Aints are the absolute best Windsor has to offer and could easily take this show on the road, should they ever choose to do so.
To match the feel of this year’s show, rock drummer Jeff Burrows wasn’t as animalistic on the drums; his playing was more in tune to that of Max Weinberg, rather than the Tea Party’s bombastic John Bonham vibe. It was another showcase of Burrows’ abilities on the skins.
It’s always exciting when Mr. Chill hits the stage as well. Kelly Hoppe is one of the country’s premiere harmonica players – no one can play that blues harp like he does, and he was on fire this night. His playing was just as exciting as the streamers and confetti storms that opened and closed the show.
Another highlight is Kelly Authier’s piano and vocals. Her gruff voice is addictive to listen to, sounding a little bit like Bonnie Raitt and Billie Eilish.
Guitarist Wes Buckley provided much of the background vocals, along with The Twisted Sisters (Liz Robinson & Stephanie Baker). As in the past, he also took the lead for a song as well.
The highlight of the evening was the band’s cover of John Lennon’s Imagine, which is also the title track of the band’s latest CD “Imagine No Hunger”.
Along with being a holiday themed show, the program was also attributed to a couple recently lost people close to the band. The fundraising concert has an incredible history in the community, with donated ticket sale proceeds, along with donations from Caesars Windsor Cares and St. Clair College to local charities, raising over $340,000 to help feed those in need since 2013. Now, with another successful year, even more families and individuals will be fed through these local organizations.
Although the band’s name pokes fun at the word Saints, all those involved in the S’Aints concerts live up to the secondary meaning of that original word – virtuous and kind.
You can purchase any of the band’s CDs at https://www.sleighinghunger.com.
December 29, 2022
All photos by Maximus Reid
(please note the gallery will not appear using the Facebook browser – we are looking into alternatives)