Live Review: Blue Rodeo @ Casino New Brunswick, Mon January 21, 2013

Photo: Clayton Morrissey for www.show-stoppers.ca © 2013 All Rights Reserved
Photo: Clayton Morrissey for www.show-stoppers.ca © 2013 All Rights Reserved

If Blue Rodeo showed a capacity crowd at Casino New Brunswick in Moncton anything on Monday night, it is that age ain’t nothin’ but a number. The group, currently on tour across Canada to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the release of their debut record Outskirts, tore through a mix of hits, some new songs from their forthcoming record (due October 2013) as well as some nuggets from their catalogue. It was the group’s first Moncton performance since January 2010.

Having seen Blue Rodeo live no less than a dozen times, I can say, without hesitation and without hyperbole, that they are one of Canada’s best live bands. Period.

The group, consisting of vocalists-guitarists Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor, bassist Bazil Donovan, drummer Glenn Milchem, keyboardist Michael Boguski, pedal steel player Bob Egan and guest guitarist-vocalist Colin Cripps, eased into the evening with the Five Days In July track Cynthia. Following well received hits What Am I Doing Here and Bad Timing, the group launched into a blistering version of Diamond Mine, one of many songs in the evening in which the members of the band were able to flex some musical muscle and cut loose. 

Not that Blue Rodeo has ever been about restraint. Between that track in which Milchem, Donovan and Boguksi more than capably held down the middle section, to the amazing crescendo and come down in both the mid-section and end section of Five Days In May (hats off to Mr. Colin Cripps on some beautiful guitar work), Blue Rodeo showed that they are arguably underrated as musicians. 

Few other bands in Canada have the pedigree of musicianship that Blue Rodeo boast. Many bands have technically proficient players; the difference with Blue Rodeo is that they are great players and have soul to their music. That is what makes these guys stand out. 

After being on stage for an hour, the group took a 15-minute intermission. Blue Rodeo returned for a brief acoustic set that saw the band members congregate towards the front of the stage. It was during this portion of the show that the group hauled out a cover of The Band’s Out Of The Blue while also seizing the opportunity to play their new songs. 

After an incredibly soulful take on After The Rain and Outskirts, Keelor invited the crowd down to the front of the stage to enjoy the last few numbers of the group’s main set, much to the delight of the throngs that rushed forward to get a spot. 

Wrapping up their main set with Til I Am Myself Again, Hasn’t Hit Me Yet (which elicited one of the best crowd singalongs in recent memory) and Casino barn burner You’re Everywhere. 

The first of two encores saw the group perform their first single Try to rapturous applause, following that up with Head Over Heels and Lost Together. The evening concluded with only Cuddy and Keelor on stage performing Is It You. 

Two hours and 45 minutes after it started, Blue Rodeo bid a final adieu as the crowd left Casino New Brunswick with nothing but fond memories of how glorious it is to be lost together with these Canadian icons. 

PS – To those yahoos who insisted on shouting during Jim and Greg’s performance of Is It You – grow up. You’re an embarrassment to the rest of us. And the fact you felt the need to point out that there were some technical difficulties happening via unwitty comments were completely uncalled for. How about you get up in front of a few thousand people and try to work through something that is beyond your control? Ironically, had you just shut up, we would have been able to hear them sing.