Blue Rodeo – 25 years and counting
Blue Rodeo is celebrating 25 years since the release of their first cd – Outskirts. CBC Music celebrates with Blue Rodeo’s first 5 records: an oral history and with a concert at the CBC’s Toronto studio.
These are my favourite musicians – not well known outside Canada – but still wonderfully relevant in Canada; three of the original group have survived together since the mid 1980s and the band is still releasing Juno award winning music.
Here are 25 reasons to love Blue Rodeo – from MSN Entertainment in Canada.
Their debut album – Outskirts – was released in 1987 shortly before I arrived in Canada.
Their studio albums are:
1989: Diamond Mine
1992: Lost Together
1993: Five Days in July
1995: Nowhere to Here
2000: The Days in Between
2002: Palace of Gold
2005: Are You Ready
2007: Small Miracles
2009: The Things We Left Behind
They are great to see live; always producing a show that is a little bit different. A Toronto based band they started on Queen Street and I saw them in Canada at Massey Hall, the old Ontario Pace Forum and a new year concert at the Diamond Club.
There last tour of 2012 was to Spain and here are my reviews from Barcelona and Lloseta in Majorca.
Just like a vacation – Barcelona and Lloseta
It is Wednesday 14 November and I am sitting for seven hours at Barcelona Airport wondering what am I doing here?
There is a general strike and plenty of protestors in the terminal – all of whom seem to have a whistle to blow.
Blue Rodeo meanwhile are stranded for an extra day in Majorca as their flight to Bilbao for the San Sebastian concert was cancelled.
I managed to change my flight to the 7am from Palma which meant a 5am departure from Puerto de Alcudia. When they say “low season” in Majorca they really mean depressingly quiet, not-a-soul- in-sight season. I drove 20kms this morning before I saw another car. There was also a huge thunderstorm this morning – it was rain down on me and we never got as far as after the rain. The lightening was spectacular.
Concerts – anyone who has seen my previous notes here will know I try and travel to some of the more interesting venues – Santa Barbara, Bedford, London and a little farm in Suffolk…..this year it was Barcelona and Lloseta (Majorca).
Barcelona is a great city; stunning to walk around; great to eat in and a late night party town. Blue Rodeo were playing in the heart of the old city centre at the Sidecar Factory Club – a basement in the corner of the Plaza Reial.
The club has a capacity of about 300 people. There is just one long narrow room, standing only, a long bar and a small stage area. Like an old wine cellar.
And I mean small. Blue Rodeo were close to standing on top of eachother.
The show was good – think of a smaller version of The Borderline in London – much smaller.
The crowd – less than 200. I was asked about male/female ratios – it was about 60% male. A few Euro-Canadians; one had traveled from Germany. Another appeared to be a friend of Russian oligarchs. But mainly an enthusiastic local crowd.
I might be a bit old fashioned about this but all these mobile phones filming the show are a bit distracting. It is hard to applaud, dance, or hold onto your partner when you are taking a home video or pictures. And the lighting is going to be poor at best. And maybe you are concentrating more on the video than on the music and that is a shame because more than anything these guys are great musicians.
The set list:
Now and Forever
To Love Somebody
What Am I doing here?
One light left in heaven
Heart Like Mine
5 Days in May
Hasnt hit me yet
Somebody touched me
Is It You? (Messrs Cuddy and Keelor only)
Til I am Myself Again
Overall the sound was a bit muted maybe in deference to Greg and recognising the confined space. It was muted enough that it was too easy to hear chattering voices echoing in the room.
If I sound a little less enthusiastic about Barcelona it is because the Lloseta venue was that much better. Barcelona was a good show; which finished about midnight when the streets are still busy.
While Blue Rodeo went onto Vitoria (a big success I heard) and Gijon I explored Barcelona and flew to Palma, Majorca; the flight is about 30 minutes.
Palma is a decent sized city. But Lloseta is a village just to the west of the centre of the island equidistant between Palma in the south and Puerto de Alcudia in the north. But this village is home to a newly built theatre where they can retract all the stalls seating and create a great concert venue,
This is a long way from the island’s tourist spots.
Another 10pm start – the Spanish like their late nights – which probably accounts for why so little opens until afternoon.
Greg did not play in Lloseta; the group had not been able to bring all their noise abatement (sorry I have no idea of the technical term) equipment with them on the airplane.
With Greg saving his ears it made for a very different concert. More like the UK a couple of years ago with Colin Cripps as a more grizelled version of Luke Doucet.
The crowd was only about 100. Mainly local with a few happy Irish who recommended Hogans Bar – close to the Hard Rock Cafe in Palma – if you are ever visiting the island.
Male – female ratio was about 70/30 this time. Spanish crowds love the sound of the harmonica!
I liked this venue. A big stage. With plenty of space for everyone and Bob, Mike (two stand out shows from him) and Glenn all on raised platforms. And terrific acoustics. I don’t think I have heard Jim ever sound that crystal clear in a concert.
So we got a very different show from Barcelona which made for a great concert. It was such a success that their cds sold out after the show.
Now and Forever
Rain Down on Me
Just one night
Rise Up (new song)
5 Days in May
It Could Happen to You
After the Rain (a blues heavy version)
Head over Heels
One Light left in Heaven (I have never heard this sung so well)
Til I Am Myself Again
This felt like a much more relaxed show than Barcelona – there was room for Jim and Colin (even Bazil) to move and the opportunity to make some noise!
That’s about it – if anyone was there please add to, amend or question any of my notes. It’s just another 5 hours til my flight back to Dubai!
Blue Rodeo toured England in 2010 and 2011 – and I saw them both years. Here are the reviews:
Extremes – from the City to the Farm – July 2011
Canada Day brought Oh My Darling, Alex Cuba, Karkwa and Blue Rodeo to London. The Brits sent Kate and Wills to Ottawa. It was a good deal for everyone gathered to celebrate on a warm evening in Trafalgar Square.
This was the 6th anniversary of Canada Day in Trafalgar Square and it is becoming a big event. The bars were emptied of Sleeman and Canadian. Tim Horton’s had Krispy Kreme length donut queues. There was poutine though I have heard dreadful allegations that it was made from shredding cheese as opposed to using cheese curds.
Mike Myers interrupted Karkwa to say hallo; enough for one of the biggest cheers of the night.
The square was packed by the time BR took the stage in front of a well lubricated crowd. The sounds system was poor for such a large venue. And too much pushing and shoving in the crowd was unfortunate with many families and children there. Why why is it that some people insist on loudly using the f word and all its derivatives every other word?
But you dont want my gripes from the evening. It was for the most part a great crowd – maybe as many as 50,000.
Greg was back in the UK after missing last year’s tour. He only played acoustic and Colin Cripps did the electric. Wayne Petty also played with them.
The short playlist included the following – I did not/could not take notes so am sure I have missed something:
Hasnt Hit Me Yet
5 Days in July
One more Night
What am I doing here
Bad Timing – in Spanish with Alex Cuba
Bad Timing in Spanish sounded great. Released as a single this could open up a whole new market!
The night ended with a rousing “Oh Canada” and ended about 10.15pm.
From 50,000 people in Trafalgar Square the band headed into the farming lands of Suffolk to the Maverick Festival with maybe 2,000 guests attending on the Saturday listening to music on three separate stages.
The Maverick Festival is held over three days on an old farm in the small village of Easton. The farm is now (for want of a better description) a farm theme park – with exhibits and displays. There was for instance a wooden cow with rubber udders if you wanted to learn the finer arts of milking ! Really. Though in its surroundings it felt a little like a trip to the farms of Northern Ontario.
In addition to the music stages (the main stage is in a field the other two stages are in old barns) there was a collection of real ales, ciders and wines, many different foods from peking duck wraps and chorizo pizza to locally baked cakes and home made lemonade. All very relaxed and friendly. You could even buy a harmonica or a ukelele…..
Blue Rodeo closed off the afternoon’s concert on the main stage at the centre of the farm.
The crowd lie on the grass, or sit on their camper chairs. They have had a good long lunch. It is warm. The sky is a stunning shade of blue. Not a cloud in site. Families have brought their aging relatives, their dogs and their kids. It is not a get up and dance crowd (except for three people with more energy than the rest). But it is a crowd that enjoys its music.
Hasnt Hit me Yet
One Day in July
One More Night
Til I am Myself Again
What am I Doing Here
It could happen to you
To Love somebody
Better off as we are
It was hot! And the stage faced directly into the sun. Jim worked up a sweat. Mike seemed to be having a thoroughly good time – his Wanch (a Hong Kong bar) t shirt gave us something to talk about after the show!
Al and Suzanne has also made the trip from Hampshire to London and onto Suffolk – nice folk – a big hallo to them !
This was a gig where the band could walk around the food vendors and no one recognised them. It was a gig where after the concert Oh My Darling and Manchester based (and very good) The Traveling Band cemented a transatlantic alliance over a game of frisbee.
The band might be concerned that the crowd was a bit reserved – dont be. They were just being English! Here is a paragraph from www.rythmandtheblues.org.uk – ” Blue Rodeo – Canadian country rock institution, for many it’s a mystery why the band never got much beyond cult status in the US or Britain. Even after 30 years, here was a band still playing like they meant it. They have any number of great songs from which to choose, and played many of the big Canadian hits as well as a few extended jams, always melodic, never self indulgent. A real highlight of the day.”
The band left late in the afternoon to overnight near Heathrow and catch the morning flight to Montreal.
Meanwhile I am still waiting for their debut in Dubai !
In 2009 Tai and I traveled from Dubai to see them play at the Lobero theatre in Santa Barbara and then in 2010 I was in the UK to see them play at the Bedford Corn Exchange and in London at the Borderline Club at Tottenham Court Road – this is my review of the UK concerts:
A Tale of Two Cities – October 2010
There can be few places more different than Bedford and London and few venues more different than The Corn Exchange and the Borderline Club.
It was Friday night that a handful of Blue Rodeo faithful and some curious Bedfordians gathered in the Corn Exchange. The concert was originally to be held in the much smaller Harpur Suite with a capacity of about 160. Instead we gathered in the far larger Corn Exchange Building.
Honestly this was the strangest of venues for the band. Yes it is on the way from Leeds to London – but then so are Birmingham, Coventry and other much larger cities. Bedford is a quiet rather conservative market town.
And as we gathered – after a quick visit to the very friendly-priced bar – we sat at round tables as though we were attending a corporate presentation or the aftermath of the wedding reception. Strange. The people at my table were very friendly but had never seen or heard Blue Rodeo. But to the credit of the Bedford venue they have the most varied of concert schedules and entertainers and seem to be well supported in the community.
Up first – local band – The WhyBirds – retro rock, and with more hair that almost anyone in the audience. They are popular locally and were well received.
Then the hard working Luke Doucet – solo – singing his own songs – with piano on one song from Mike Boguski. Loved the story of writing a song for his ex. That should frighten off any other romantic interest.
And then Blue Rodeo; with Luke Doucet as Luke Doucet rather than as a baby-faced Greg Keelor.
Better off as we are
Waiting for the world
Always getting better
One more night
Now and Forever
5 Days in May
Bad Timing (vocals shared with LD)
Walk like you don’t Mind
Basil sings – Stage Door
Rain Down on Me
Till I am Myself
Head over Heels
It could happen to you
Sorry if I missed anything. I like Luke Doucet. Yes I miss Greg and it is a different show as the playlist shows. But the band always look like they are enjoying themselves. But this was not really a party crowd. It was a sit back and listen crowd. But they enjoyed what they heard. Mr. Cuddy got a few people dancing. Not me – my other half could not get the time away from work to be in the UK.
So that was Bedford. It was almost midnight before the show wrapped up. Mr. Cuddy did his PR role generously to shake hands and take pictures. And I caught the 1.20 back to St Pancras – I can report there are some interesting folk on those late night trains – including three guests from the concert – I enjoyed meeting you!
And so to London. Now the Borderline is like an old student union bar. Other than a few people who must have arrived mid afternoon to grab the handful of seats, it is standing room only for an audience (I guess) of 300+. And this was an audience of either Blue Rodeo faithful or homesick Canadians. And it was a singalong. The band had fun. The energy was great.
Luke Doucet opened with his solo show. His ex girlfriend must really dislike him by now!
Then Kacey Cubero – she is also headlining her own tour in England at the moment – and that includes Bedford later in the month. I thought she might sing a song or two with Blue Rodeo – but no. Opportunity missed?
And then Blue Rodeo. Now I think Luke Doucet was fabulous tonight. Some of his guitar work is outstanding and he appears very comfortable with the band and fronting alongside Jim Cuddy.
By popular request there had to be one Greg Keelor song – to try Diamond Mine was ambitious – maybe more coal mine than diamond mine – but it was fun, it shows off the band so the lyrics don’t matter so much and the audience loved it. Thanks to one of the audience for helping out on vocals!
But the Borderline has a 10.30pm curfew so time was limited. No Finger Lakes, Stage door, Rain down on me, Montreal or Mystic River. The encore was Try and a fabulous Trust Yourself.
That’s it – please add more comments or correct any of the playlist.
It was raining cats and dogs outside. It still is. Time to head back to the Desert.
PS – I know that technically Bedford is a town and not a city – but that would spoil the headline !
Blue Road Album Review
Album Review: Blue Rodeo — Blue Road
13 January 2009 – 2:53am
Paul Blinov, www.thegatewayonline.ca
If only most bands aged this well. After more than 20 years, Canadian country-rockers Blue Rodeo have put out their third live album, this time culled from an acoustic night at Toronto’s Massey Hall. It tops most sets by bands a quarter of their age.
Digging back through their discography to pull songs from their debut, 1987’s Outskirts, and then pushing onwards, the band stays close to the yearning, heart-tugging tunes in their musical canon, with a few forays into more upbeat country (“Crying Over You,” “Blue House”), and multi-vocal hymns (“Tell Me Your Dream”), which provide nice breaks from the, err, bluer tracks.
“5 Days in May,” is Blue Road’s first song, and also it’s longest and best. Rippling with drama, energy, and enthusiasm, it retains and builds intensity even during the few minutes of minimal, hushed strumming and jamming that comes near the nine-minute track’s half-way point.
Shimmering slide guitar pops up all over the album, along with dual guitars, drums, piano and the combined vocal harmonies of Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor. Crisp mixing keeps the entire ensemble from feeling muddled, letting each instrument sound out with clarity, and keeps audience interference to a minimum—a necessary feature for any successful live recording.
Together, it all blends into a solid recording of a great set. Plugged in or not, 21 years into the game, they’ve got their songs mastered just as aptly acoustically as they do with their amplified versions. Blue Rodeo have become virtuosos at being Blue Rodeo, and that’s quite a thing to be.