This might be the ultimate “it was fine” review. I’ve been putting this off for over two weeks now because it’s going to be a bit of a struggle to say much of anything. But I want to clear my slate before Lyle Lovett on Wednesday, and The Walking Dead is on, and I find paying attention to The Walking Dead to be even more of a chore than writing reviews when I don’t have anything to say, so here we go.
Jeff really likes these guys. I should just let him write this whole thing, but we’re coming up on tax season and he’s probably not got time. Plus, over the past 20+ years, I have carefully cultivated an audience of at least a dozen people who clearly aren’t interested in expert opinions. But yes, Jeff, big fan. One of their albums is his favourite ever, he told me. Which is largely why I went to this show. Not that I got around to listening to that album beforehand – not that they played anything from it anyway – but a recommendation that strong is usually enough to get me to a show. So I went to a show.
I did listen to a collection of Big Wreck singles before buying the ticket. I didn’t think I really knew much of anything by them, but that proved to not be the case. They’re very much one of those bands where I was like “oh, THEY do that song.” Stuff I knew from the radio from back in my pizza delivery days, though they reunited in 2012 and have been putting out music since then.
So off I went. I opted for standing room on the floor, while Jeff and his brother got balcony seating. The floor always seems like a good idea, but then I stay far back from the stage anyway, leaving me with sore feet, strained eyes, and an unsupported backside. Plus I think the floor costs $5 more. Someday I’ll learn. Probably not anytime soon, though.
Our openers were Ascot Royals. Or as it kind of sounded like they were saying, “NASCAR Roses.” Didn’t know much about them beforehand and still don’t, really, but they were fun enough. A short set of straightforward rock, nothing groundbreaking but well done, kinda catchy, and they seemed like good dudes. I approve! I’m playing their new EP, New Skin, right now, and it’s worth a listen. I think they played pretty much this whole thing during their set.
Before the show, I killed time reading ALL-CAPS tweets about Trump (this was the day of the infamous “SEE YOU IN COURT”) as the casino played the alternative rock hits of the 90s, including Ocean Pearl by 54-40 (who I have seen at said casino) and Santa Monica by Everclear (who are there in a few months). However, because between sets, we were treated to Reflektor by Arcade Fire. Like, not just the title track, but the whole album on shuffle for the entire 30ish minutes. It seemed like a really strange choice, is all. And probably not one that portends a future casino show, I’m guessing.
As for Big Wreck, the most notable thing was when singer Ian Thornley went off on the fans down in the very front who had their phones out, recording video. He didn’t seem to care that they were taping so much as they were right in the very front where he could see them. Like it made him overthink how he was standing, his facial expressions, all that stuff, instead of just playing music. Which is fair. But he really singled a few people out, and I think he felt bad about it – he walked it back a bit after the next song, and wound up shaking hands with the fans before he was done. At the end, he handed them picks too, so everyone was friends in the end.
As for the show itself, they were good. Like I said, it was fine. They played all the songs I know (as if there are a ton of them). Really, I was not invested enough in things to have a strong opinion one way or another, and I was more interested in what Jeff had to say. He enjoyed it, noting they didn’t play his favourite songs but the new stuff sounded a lot better live (and they played a lot of it). Which is not a ton to go on but a lot more than you were ever going to get from me.
• Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt (March 1)
• Blackie & the Rodeo Kings (March 8)
• The Tea Party (March 18)
• Bill & Joel Plaskett w/Mayhemingways (March 23)
• Lisa LeBlanc (March 30)
• I Love The 90s feat. Salt N Pepa, Vanilla Ice, Color Me Badd, Young MC, and Rob Base (April 1)
• The Last Waltz Remembered feat. Corb Lund, Matt Andersen, Amy Helm, & the Russell Broom House Band (April 5)
• BA Johnston w/Napalmpom (April 28)
• Ron Sexsmith (May 7)
• kd lang (August 26)
• Guns N’ Roses (August 27)
• Martha Wainwright (October 22)
Step up to the bar for another round of your favourites… Can you believe this entry makes 25 of them already? I know!
21 HANSEN9J: Big Wreck – The Pleasure And The Greed
There was a time when I was definitely into Big Wreck, and then (as so often happens), I moved on to other bands, other sounds. In all fairness, they were only around for two records, so they didn’t have much time to entrench themselves… But hearing them again, now, was a real pleasure.
At the time, I was more into their first record, In Loving Memory Of…, but I had this one too and it was an excellent effort. Ian Thornley has a strong, distinctive voice, and the band is tight and heavy. I’d forgotten how long it is, with 16 full tracks, definitely not your typical album release.
Funny, for all the shows I went to around that time, I never got the chance to see this band in concert, but I imagine it would have been a huge show. Thanks, HANSEN9J, the nostalgia here did my heart good.
22 OMG IT’S FEELY: Everclear – So Much For The Afterglow
From its Beach Boys-inspired opening strains, So Much For The Afterglow builds into an entirely pleasing rock-pop record. Like Big Wreck (above) and a pile of others, this was a band that I was playing quite a bit in my mix of latter-day grunge/punk. I bonded more closely with Sparkle And Fade, probably because I saw the band live in 1996, before Afterglow came out. I remember one of the band members walking down the line of amps and turning everything to full…
This is a spiffy collection of tracks, and the years have done nothing to diminish them.
23 FCOLL REVIEWS: Glasvegas – Glasvegas
FCOLL REVIEWS chimed in with this soaring slice of Britpop as the current winner, another response offering up a contemporary record not an all-time favourite. Since the question didn’t specify one or the other, fair enough!
This record is a veritable wall of sound. Every instrument is treated to full-on stadium effect. Hell, the first track is an album unto itself, with its intro and outro and near-seven minute length. There’s calculated ambition aplenty here, a perfect studio-produced gem.
Personally, though, the record didn’t do much for me – on a listening level. I’m not their target market. I’ve never been a fan of that Brit-wave of Coldplay or Oasis (who even gets a shout out in track 3), and the endless list of other similar-sounding (to me) bands. If this is the current sound out of the UK, to me it sounds the same as it did fifteen years ago. The subtle differences between these groups is lost on me.
The cracked-voice affectations, learned over years of hearing other people do bad impersonations of people whose voices actually cracked when they sang, quickly grew old. Fun to once again hear the rolled ‘R’s of Scotland, though I wonder if even those have been increased, at points, beyond conversational accent.
Still, my thanks to FCOLL for introducing me to something I probably wouldn’t have heard otherwise. It’s good for me to broaden horizons now and again. Cheers!
24 STEVE: Queen – A Night At The Opera
I’ve never known whether to take Queen seriously or not. I mean, I do – listen to how powerful Mercury’s voice was, and May is a guitar g-d to those in the know. The band wrote excellent songs that have definitely withstood the tests of time and held the fleeting attention spans of the average rock radio listener. They are definitely in the pantheon.
But there are other times when I think Queen is kind of goofy.. in a nice, safe, Monty Python kind of way. Like they took what they were doing perfectly seriously but were still sniggering backstage before going out to play a concert like they were ten year old school boys getting away with something. And no, Mercury’s predilections had nothing to do with that last comment, shame on you for thinking it… Look, sometimes their songs strike me as wonky. Maybe I should blame Mike Meyers…
So, when Steve offered up this album as his favourite, I approached with both thoughts in mind, and was certainly pleased with what I heard. This is a cool record. It has all the hallmarks of the Queen sound (and you know what they are, I won’t list them here), and fulfills both my opinions of the band. I don’t know why Steve chose it, but good on you, man.
25 DENISE: Madonna – The Immaculate Collection
Here we go. I have a confession to make. Ready? I owned tapes of Madonna in the 80’s. I know, I know. Not what you’d think of me. And then when Brian gave me back all of my tapes I discovered that I now own them again. I haven’t played them in the car yet, but I’m not afraid to either. I just haven’t hit that level of nostalgia yet.
So Denise chose this hits collection as her favourite. Fair enough. We all know every word to every song on this record, largely because they were hammered into our brains so often as to be impossible to ignore. Damn you, pop radio and Video Hits! Even the songs for which I didn’t know the titles, I knew the songs themselves. So it goes.
Did I like it? Well, sure. Why not. I mean, a piece of our past is always welcome around here occasionally, as long as it takes its shoes off at the door and doesn’t just pick the pretzels out of the party mix. Will I listen to it often? No, not likely. Chacun son gout, d’accord?