Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sturgill Simpson Live in Edmonton Aug.14th 2016

Ok I started writing this a while ago but never finished before I left for an adventure of a lifetime. So this review is a little old and probably a bit rambling as i just wanted to finish it so that I can start my write up on this past weekend. So here is a bit about the Sturgill Simpson show almost two weeks ago.

On Sunday night my buddy Buzzard and I went to the Sturgill Simpson concert at Union Hall here in Edmonton. I was looking forward to this show as I have been a fan of Sturgill for the past two years. While I am not a fan of the venue the show was at, sometimes you just gotta suck it up and go when an artists is playing a place you don't like. So that's exactly what I did. And a Sunday show, that is always tough too, unless of course you book the Monday off in which is what I did. The show was sold out, so a crowd of about a 1000 I believe. Seemed like it was a rowdy crowd, as were waiting outside in the line-up to get in, you could see lots of empty beer cans and a few mickey's too. This wasn't going to be your regular Sunday crowd. And as much as Sturgill Simpson is regarded a country artists, there wasn't a single cowboy hat to be seen. Nice!!!

Sturgill Simpson is an Americana/Country artists from Jackson, Kentucky who is on tour promoting his latest release "A Sailor's Guide To Earth" that came out in April. Sturgill is an artist that you won't hear on country music stations only because they don't have the balls to play real country music. His voice reminds me of Waylon Jennings big time, another outlaw country musician. Once we got in to the venue Buzzard and I made our way to the front of the stage. By the time Sturgill came on the bar was packed and like I said earlier, the place had a good vibe with a whole lot of drinking going on. So much so that a couple of the bars in the venue actually ran out of beer at one point. Sturgill and his seven piece band opened with two songs "Sitting Here Without You" and "Water In A Well" from his first album High Top Mountain. After that it was the song "Long White Line" a big song from his second album Metamodern Sounds In Country Music. These songs sounded a little different from their originals as Sturgill now has a three piece horn section that plays with him. I thought they still sounded good with the horns though a touch loud. We ended up getting out from the front of the stage as it was a touch loud. I think part of that reason is the venue he was playing. It has been a while since Sturgill had played a bar, seeing as his tour across Canada were mostly played in theatres. He even mentioned at one point in the show that it was nice to play in a place where he where he could smell the audience, with everyone being so close. Once we got away from the front the sound seemed to be a little more clear, but part of that I am sure too is that the sound guy had figured out the room as well.

Stugill's two hour consisted of him playing all old material for the first two thirds of the show and then the last third of the show was him performing his new album A Sailor's Guide To Earth from start to finish. I didn't expect that at all, but after the first hour or so and not hearing a new song you could kind of figure it out that he was probably going to do all his new stuff at the end. I thought Sturgill Simpson sounded great as did his band. All and all this was an awesome show. Good times!!!


Sturgill Simpson at Union Hall in Edmonton.

T-shirt front.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Jason Isbell Live in Edmonton August 5th 2016

Last Friday Hurl and I made our way to Gallagher Park which is where they hold the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. In the winter this hill is a ski hill but for one weekend in the summer it becomes a natural amphitheatre. A beautiful spot to see a show with the big hill and the stage at the bottom, a nice view of downtown Edmonton in the background. But having said, that I don't go to this festival often as I have a few issues with it. Like the stupid tarp idea and the ridiculous line up for the beer gardens. From what I had read and heard it was up to a two hour wait to get into the beer gardens, forget about it. We just brought our own beers and hid them in the long grass around the venue and stepped out for a beer when we wanted one. And the tarp thing, people line up as early as 7am to lay there 10'X10' tarp in front of the stage to hold their spot for the day. A bullshit idea I say. If anything leave at least twenty yards free in front of the stage so that people can dance and enjoy the music up front, not have to sit or stand at the top of the hill, or you can do what others do and stand at the side of the stage and dance and try to see the stage, terrible view. Not a fan of the tarp thing or the beer line up, so I don't go very often unless it is a band or performer that I just have to see. Well this year there was, it was Jason Isbell that I had to see. So enough of my griping and on with the review.

For those who don't know Jason Isbell, he is from Alabama and was a member of the southern rock band Drive-By Truckers between 2001-2007. Jason has since gone on to release five solo albums, as well as a couple of live albums.

By the time Jason Isbell and his back up band The 400 Unit, came on it was after 11pm. He was scheduled for 10:50 which surprised me as I always thought there was an 11pm noise curfew, but they must bend the rules for the Folk Fest. So by the time Jason came on it was dark but still a beautiful night for an outdoor concert.

I was excited about seeing Jason Isbell in concert for the second time, especially now with another album out since I last saw him live at Interstellar in 2014. Jason opened his set with four songs from his "Something More Then Free" Grammy Award winning album. Opening with the title song then going into "24 Frames", "If It Takes A Lifetime" and "Speed Trap". What surprised me during his set was that he did a couple of Drive-By Truckers songs, but then why not he wrote them after all, those songs being "Decoration Day" and "Never Gonna Change". It was during "Decoration Day" that the people in front of the stage on their tarps started to pack it up for the night, not sure if it was because of the band getting things rocking or because they had probably been at the concert site since 8am. Nonetheless, that opened things up for those that were standing to the side, so that was my chance to get up front and actually see him better and dance. This is when the show got even better.

Jason mentioned during the show the hellish trip he had trying to get to Edmonton for this show. Thirty-six hours to get from Nashville to Edmonton, with cancelled flights delays and such. Just happy that he made it and still put on a great show after a long travel day like that, he also said how happy he was that he made it up for the show and how good he had been treated at the festival and by Edmontonians. That is one thing you hear a lot from musicians about the Edmonton Folk Fest is how much they like it and how well they are treated, so that's a great attribute to have. Kudos to you Folk Fest.

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit played for about 70 minutes with not a bad song played. I have called him the new Bob Dylan, ok that's probably a bit far fetched cause after all there is no one like Dylan, but Isbell is certainly one of the best songwriters around these days. I look forward to the day I get to see him headline his own show and play for well over an hour. Great show, nice weather and awesome music. Good times!!!


Jason Isbell at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Tragically Hip Live in Edmonton July 30th 2016

Hard to believe it has been a week already since the Tragically Hip show, but it has taken me this long to totally absorb last weeks show. So here is what I have to say about the show. Enjoy!

On Saturday Janis, Cuz and I went to the Tragically Hip show with my friends Shane, Miles and Chris who made the trip from North Vancouver and Kamloops to come up for the show here in Edmonton at Rexall Place. This show was going to be a special one for many reasons, first and foremost this would be the very last time I get to see the Tragically Hip live in concert in person, and Shane and Chris making it up here for the show made it even more special. It was with these two that I saw The Hip in concert for the first time back in 1991 on the Road Apples Tour when they lived here. It had been over twenty year since either one had made a visit to Edmonton. So when they told me they were coming up for the show and bringing Miles another good friend of mine with them I was super excited.

Ticket stub from the very first time I saw The Hip in concert.

After a few drinks in the afternoon, it was off to the show. This would be my seventeenth time seeing The Hip in concert and sadly my last time. You could kind of sense the sadness in us as we headed to the show knowing that this would be it. I have grown up with this Kingston, Ontario band all through my 20's, 30' and now 40's. From the first time I heard them I was an instant fan. Gord Downie's lyrics have always been thought provoking making you really think about what he is singing, and sometimes I just really had no idea what he was singing about, but that just made it even more interesting trying to figure it out. And then of course there are the songs with great Canadian references in the lyrics. It's always been cool that the band never went through any line-up changes either, it's always been Gord Downie on vocals, Paul Langlois on guitar, Rob Baker on guitar, Gord Sinclair on bass and Johnny Fay on drums. It was the first time I saw them in concert when I knew after that I would see these guys at any chance I had, an absolutely amazing live band.

By the time the show started at 8:30 pm sharp as advertised the place was packed with even the seating behind the stage full. The Hip started the show with four rockers from their debut album Up To Here. Starting with "Blow At High Dough" then into "Opiated" next was "Boots Or Hearts" and closing out the first small set was one of their biggest hits "New Orleans Is Sinking". Gord was sporting a shiny blue suit one of four different colour suits he has been wearing on this Man Machine Poem tour. It was during the third song "Boots Or Hearts" that things really started to kick, the emotion of what I was seeing and experiencing when Gordie sang the words...

See when it starts
To fall apart
Man, it really falls apart
Like boots or hearts
Oh when they start
They really fall apart

this was then the tears started for me. This kept up all night long with certain lines being sung.

The next block of songs were from the latest Hip album Man Machine Poem. With Gord battling terminal brain cancer all the lyrics seem to sink in even more so now. A new song "In A World Possessed By The Human Mind" really made you think, and then they played the song "Tired As Fuck" a song I was really hoping I would get to hear. Tired As Fuck, well you would never know it by Gord's performance such passion, emotion and energy.

The next batch of songs come from the We Are The Same album. The song "Now The Struggle Has A Name" with the lyrics...

Now the struggle has a name
It doesn't fade, it hasn't changed
I still feel the same
Now the struggle has a name

this is when the tears started to stream. I tried to be discreet and wipe them away, but then I looked at Janis and saw her doing the same and then the guy next to me also doing the same thing, I thought fuck it, why fight it, let the tears flow. And they did through out the show.

In between songs there would be chants of "Gordie, Gordie" from the sold out crowd, that were loud and thunderous with everyone stomping their feet while yelling. It was truly one of the loudest crowds I have heard at Rexall Place in quite sometime.

When the band broke into songs from the Fully Completely album which is probably their most popular album. They already had the revved up crowd really going crazy and singing along, first up was "Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)". When they did that song you could feel the collective energy of every being in the arena directed towards Gordie sending him so much love, support and "Courage". The words on the teleprompter says it all.

Next was "At The Hundredth Meridian" a song about the prairies that has always been a Canadian classic. That was a tough song to try and keep my motions in check especially the verse...

If I die of vanity, promise me, promise me
If they bury me some place I don't want to be
You'll dig me up and transport me, unceremoniously
Away from the swollen city breeze, garbage bag trees
Whispers of disease and the acts of enormity
And lower me slowly and sadly and properly
Get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy

"Wheat Kings" and "Fifty Mission Cap" came next and was an awesome one two punch. There really isn't a bad song on the Fully Completely album.

The next four songs come from The Hip's 1996 album Trouble At The Henhouse with the last of the four songs being "Ahead By A Century" where the very last line of the song is "And disappointing you is getting me down", it was almost like Gord was beating himself up for letting us down cause of his illness, that line really stung and had me tearing up big time. That was the last song til encore time, but before the encore the band left the stage except for Gord Downie who stood in the middle of the stage and just soaked in all the admiration from the audience, looking around nodding to the crowd, you could see he had tears in his eyes too, now there wasn't a dry eyes in the place. That was some raw emotion. What also struck me during the show was the other band members almost looking sad as they played like they know as well that this is it, the last ever tour by the band that they have all been in since 1984.

For the encore the band did three songs from the Day For Night album. Starting with "Greasy Jungle" a great rocker, it's funny through out the whole show I was rocking away but at the same time had tears rolling from eyes. Next was the song "Scared" another tough song when you really listen tot he lyrics, and Gord sang it with such passion. Try out these lyrics and tell me this don't hit home when sung by someone that is fighting brain cancer...

If you can make me scared, if that's what you do
If I'm unclear, can I get out of this thing with me and you
If you feel scared, and a bit confused
I got to say, this sounds a little beyond anything I'm used to

They closed out the first encore with the haunting song "Grace, Too" which has always been a song that I have loved, and when Gord sang the verse...

The secret rules of engagement are hard to endorse
When the appearance of conflict meets the appearance of force
But I can guarantee, there'll be no knock on the door
I'm total pro here, that's what I'm here for

you certainly got that right Mr. Downie you are a pro.

The band came out for a second encore playing two songs from the Phantom Power album. Before they started Gord spoke, one of the few times he actually said anything to the audience saying the first time we played Edmonton we played to six people, now look at us, two nights, thank you to each and everyone of you, in which the crowd cheered loudly chanting Gordie, Gordie again and thanking him and the band for all the great music and live performances they have done over the years. The first song of the second encore was a song called "Fireworks" where the first verse has some great hockey references...

If there's a goal that everyone remembers
It was back in old seventy two
We all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger
And all I remember is sitting beside you

You said you didn't give a fuck about hockey
And I never saw someone say that before
You held my hand and we walked home the long way
You were loosening my grip on Bobby Orr

Brilliant writing. And the last song I will ever see The Tragically Hip perform in person was "Bobcaygeon".

An absolutely amazing night of music, Gord put on a classic performance the band sounded great the crowd loved it. It was a night of high emotions, lots of tears, rocking out, singing along and just taking it all in. I am so glad I went to both shows in Edmonton. Out of the 50 songs they did over the course of the two nights, the band played 42 different songs. Name another band that could pull that off. This is a show that I will never forget.

Setlist for the Edmonton show on July 30th 2016.

Tragically Hip at Rexall Place July 30th 2016.

After the show we all met at the Gretzky statue and made our way back to my place to crack open the last bottle of Tragically Hip Fully Completely red wine that I had saved for a special moment like this. We had that and called it a night as we were all mentally and emotionally drained. I think we were all in awe of what we had just experienced and still coping with the realization that this would be the last time we would see The Hip in concert.

A big thank you to Shane for coming to Edmonton for the show and bringing Chris and Miles with you. It was great to see all of you, hang out together for a few days and to experience the last time we would all see The Hip, and being able to do it all together. Good times!!!

On Saturday August 20th the Tragically Hip will be playing there very last concert in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario, this show will be broadcast on the following media outlets CBC Television, CBC Radio One, CBC Radio 2, CBC Music and YouTube. I know Canada will be tuned in for this big time and recommend you check it out as well. Watch for local happenings in your city for special events that night at your local watering hole.

Gord and band you are going to be missed, but thankfully we will always have your music to listen to. Thanks so much for having the Courage to do one last tour. Stay strong Gord Downie!!!

T-shirt front.

T-shirt back.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tragically Hip Live in Edmonton July 28th 2016

On Thursday night the Tragically Hip played the first of two sold out shows at Rexall Place here in Edmonton. The Hip are on tour for their latest release Man Machine Poem but is also a farewell tour after lead singer Gord Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer earlier this year.

I already had tickets for the second show but was determined to see the first show as well as the band has been switching up the setlist every night, so I didn't want to miss their second last show here. Persistency finally paid off on the morning of the show scoring row 6 centre seats on the floor for this show, to say I was happy would be an understatement. This would be my sixteenth time seeing the Tragically Hip in concert.

I was going to do a review of the show but after waking up Friday and reading the review that Fish Griwkowsky of the Edmonton Sun / Edmonton Journal wrote there was no reason for me to write one as Fish nailed it in his review in every way. To read the review, which is the best concert review I have ever read click here. It is well worth the read.

Setlist for the first Edmonton show.

The Tragically Hip at Rexall Place.