Thursday, March 22, 2012

Blackie & the Rodeo Kings (and Queens)

It was a warm Wednesday night in Toronto. Unseasonably warm. We'd been waiting for this day for what seemed like forever. Rich had to drive back from Sudbury, and arrived just 20 minutes before the show. In front of Massey Hall a crowd had gathered. A Man Called Wrycraft called me over to the corner, we chatted with Paul Reddick, then Rich joined us. Wrycraft accosted a guy who was selling B&W photos of The Rodeo Kings.
"Did you take those pictures?" he asked.
"Nice pictures...they look like Bob Lanois pictures to me. Did you really take these pictures?"
"Umm...I gotta go..." and he disappeared around the corner.
Well...everybody's got to make a buck I guess. The ten dollar T-shirts wouldn't appear on the street 'til after the show let out. Inside the T-shirts were $30, and posters $20, CDs and World Vision children to adopt.
Inside the temperature was a bit cooler, our floor seats had great sightlines, and Michael and his photographer friend Kevin Kelly were coincidentally in the row ahead of us. The show was not quite sold out, but the BARK arranged tour buses brought fans from Brantford, Hamilton, Peterborough, Orillia, and they all let out a cheer when announced. Everybody seemed to know everybody, the sense of community was palpable.
At 8 o'clock Colin Linden walked onstage to announce the opening act. Harlan Pepper, four young guys who play music that old guys like us can appreciate. They did a 35 minute set that included tunes from their freshman album, and a few surprises. The closing instrumental left us all with grins on our faces.
Tear down and reset took til 9:00 when Blackie & the Rodeo Kings took the stage. They rocked into "Water or Gasoline" with a vengeance. We all sang along. The hits just kept on comin'. Then it was time to introduce the guests. Mary Margaret O'Hara was first up, although I still can't quite understand what she added to "Stoned". Rich turned to me and said, "She's quirky."
Mary Margaret was better when she returned later in the show, but she did have 'some fancy footwork for this low down boozed up crowd'. Murray McLauchlan made a surprise appearance to trade verses with BARK on "Down By the Henry Moore" and we all sang the chorus. Next "honorary queen" was Ron Sexsmith who took Rosanne Cash's part in the song he and Colin co-wrote for the Kings & Queens album "Got You Covered". He said he screwed it up on TV the other night...he definitely made amends this time.

The band was unbelievably tight, Johnny Dymont on bass, drummer Gary Craig with John Whynot on piano and Ken Pearson laying Hammond B-3. Wow!
The Queens came out one at a time, Amy Helm (who was here with her dad, Levon, a couple months earlier), Holly Cole, Serena Ryder and Mary Margaret each adding their voice to the decidedly male sound that is BARK. These ladies rock with the best of them. Rosanne Cash was in England, Emmylou Harris was taking a break at home, and no mention of Patti Scialfa or Lucinda Williams but four queens was sufficient for a fine evening of music.
The whole cast (minus Murray and Ron but including Harlan Pepper) appeared on-stage for the finale and shared the love. Then a surprise 2nd encore saw Colin and Stephen come back with most of the band calling for Tom, Johnny and John for a rousing rendition of The Band's "Endless Highway". It's maybe the most obscure song in The Band's repertoire but it really ended the night on a high note. The party continued downstairs but Rich and I had a long drive we bade Massey Hall farewell. Oh, what a night!

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