Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Part of the Rodeo - BLUE RODEO! concert review

The Ballad of the Dime Store Greaser and the Blonde Mona Lisa 
Blue Rodeo
(my version and pictures...their talent and property)

Where to start? The Rolling Stones are still kicking ass and drawing sold out crowds at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. For their 50 and counting tour, more than 19,500 people had the opportunity to shell out somewhere in the neighbourhood of $500 each to see Mick and the boys showcase more than 5 decades of hits. I saved a bit of money and got up close and personal with three all Canadian bands the same night a little further away from the mayhem of the big city. Although I got a good taste of the insanity of a metropolitan city on a Friday night as I joined the exodus departing on the highways across the top of the city, the one hour drive time was easily doubled. But so worth it - yes even the stress in wondering if we were lost or worse going to be late. Lost was unlikely since I had made the same straightforward trip several times. West on the highway, north on the bi-way - not too complicated. Lol! It was all good, for in the end we were parking as the doors were opening and we "stormed the stage" prepared to park for the night. Yes, liquids were restricted because there is never a good time for a break :)
Canadian music rocks!
Shared passion makes the loving sweeter and it applies to music as well as the horizontal tango ;)

The venue was a local hockey arena in a tiny town. Larger arenas and entertainment centres could be sold out and have been, but this is a charity event hosted by a community group that has been going on almost as long as the prolific career of the headlining band. This was the 16th year for Blue Rodeo and the first for the Devin Cuddy Band.

I don't know how long Who'sArmy has been opening with Blue Rodeo at this venue but this is my second time seeing them and I liked them even more than last time. A young band, Who'sArmy was formed during the school years but really didn't gain a following (an army) behind them until a very successful run in 2011 on Cover Me Canada. They won that competition and have been showcasing their musical talent ever since. I had the good fortune of meeting the proud Mom of one of the members of the band when I went to pick up my tickets at her home. She is right to boast - he's a talented young man. Every song the band played last night was awesome. For you television fans, a quick youtube search showed me that this band had penned a song with Chantal Kreviazuk entitled Alive that was shown in the finale of the Being Erica show. Not to shabby to have those credits under your belt. If you appreciate real young talent not media manufactured, check them out.

A brief intermission while Who'sArmy carried away their instruments and gear and at the same time we saw the first glimpse of the Devin Cuddy band in action. Although by "in action" I mean that they were playing the part of roadies. Yes, indeed it was Devin Cuddy himself who moved his piano to the front of the stage and made the connections to it, the foot pedal and the mic. The glamorous life of a rock star :) As his father said in a song "All In Time". The music...Well, let me tell you, the apple sure didn't fall far from the tree. A very distinctive voice and a different style of writing and singing, but the talent is clearly evident. There is a tone of blues in a several songs we heard, and humour. I like that a lot. Devin played the entire set seated at the keys and it was the only time I cursed being so close to the stage. Every picture I tried to take had a mic stand shielding his eyes. His wild mop of curly hair hid his eyes the rest of the time...until as the set wore on, the sweat acted as a gel to control it when he swept it up and away. You could hear the passion in the voice if not see it in the eyes, it was all good. The members of the band - talent without famous fathers.  He called himself the "other Devon" when at the merchandise table a fan of Jim Cuddy professed her love for his dad - on stage he plucked the base and with a look that seemed to fit the style of the music if not his tender age, this Devon was perfect harmonization for Kid Cuddy. I cannot mention the talent of this young band without a word about Animal. It's not an insult. Animal was the rocking drummer from the Muppets. The Muppets were the puppets from the educational program Sesame Street who left the pre-school sect and went mainstream. When you watched Cuddy's drummer perform you saw the same faraway gaze and intensity. Someone get that boy a sandwich he is eating his drumsticks. I am glad we had a chance to chat after the show and I love the CD I purchased. Still need one signature - did you even find Master Cuddy? Good PR guys enjoy the ride up.

Blue Rodeo <3

When you are Blue Rodeo, you let the roadies do the last minute check to make sure the sound quality is going to be what you want. When you have been performing for adoring fans for 25 years you know that with each passing moment before you walk on stage the anticipation is building. Blue Rodeo can easily and promptly sell out Massey Hall but they also really seem to like the smaller, intimate audiences up close and personal with their fans. I have been a fan throughout their entire career but until recently, I never saw them in concert at all. I wasn't always living in the southern Ontario area, and there was a time in my life when going to any concert just wasn't an option. The first time I saw the boys was in Jarvis Ontario. Barely a crossroads tucked away in the farm fields far behind Hamilton it was a CornFest. The stage was small and the seating was bales of hay. But I stood at the feet of Greg Keelor, transfixed. I don't know if it was my excitement at being there that resonated  but I was fortunate to meet some amazing fans during the set that allowed me to get even closer so I could take pictures. Still friends with her today. That is the beauty of being a part of this Rodeo, we all paid the price of admission and we all love the music, we get the other persons passion. Since that humble foray into the live Blue Rodeo experience, I have sought out similar venues. Some bigger, some smaller - all amazing. I must give a quick shout out to my kids who tolerated my Blue Rodeo and Pink Panther obsessions and even fed them. My daughter and her b/f sent me to concerts. My son during his four years of university on the east coast would have the bar band play Try and then in a "college stupor" call me and without a word as he held his cell phone high above the crowds, all I would hear would be the drunken shrieks, but I knew that he was thinking of me. Being in the audience for a CanadaAM appearance was a highlight because circumstances allowed for a personal meeting with both Jim and Greg and a photo-op! 

Jim Cuddy

This night, like every other night, every other performance the boys of Blue are in fine form. Colin Cripps has taken a much more visible role in picking up the electric guitar solos that were once the job of Greg Keelor. Greg has been dealing with some ear problems lately - so much so that the stage was built bigger this year to give more space around the equipment and the singer. It saddens me to see Greg taking a less active role but I understand for age and ear issues plague me too. What restore my faith for the future of the band is noting that Greg's vocal contributions haven't diminished. While it may be comfortable for him to have the guitar in front, if he just sang I would be in heaven. Without a doubt, Jim Cuddy has got more than a few female fans willing to fall at his feet and are swooning and drooling at the sight of him. Who can blame them? And when he sings the deal is done. Jim seems to unconsciously (or not) play to that because many of the love songs are vocalised by him. Women relate to that relationship theme on an emotional level - and it helps with the fantasy that Jim is the other one in that! The songs where Greg is the main vocalist seem to be more soulful and thought provoking. Like What Am I Doing Here and Outskirts. One of the new ones resonated with me and hit me like a slap in the face is Never Too Late. I can hardly wait for the new album to come out so I can hear it on repeat :) If I could ask any question of the band it would be simply "As a duo, how do you decide who is the main singer on a song? Is it the main writer or is it based on vocal range and style? Flip a coin?" 

Greg Keelor

Attending a Blue Rodeo concert is a very emotional and moving experience for me, since the band sings the music of my life. I relate to music, particularly the lyrics and have all my life. Music moves me to love, cry, laugh, think, smile and write. I play piano but it isn't my passion. Blue Rodeo is. All three bands who entertained us are all amazing in their own right. Three different styles coming together for one awesome evening. I assure you that whatever type of music you like, you will find that one of these bands will do it for you. The audience was a testament to this. From 20 year old males who supported their friends in Who'sArmy, or were recently introduced to the Blue Rodeo legacy to the nearing-their-prime 50+year old gentlemen and the women of all ages. Some artists cater to specific demographic populations like teenage girls and Justin Bieber or Lawrence Welk and the blue-hair army. Blue Rodeo fans span the generations and sexes. It will never cease to amaze me that they haven't achieved the world wide fame of a U2 or Coldplay - it sure isn't lack of talent. But it's okay because it means that for me, I will be able to afford to go see them and appreciate them in person. 

"Here on the outskirts of life dreams seldom come true" and you go to a Blue Rodeo concert and suddenly the world is brighter and everything seems possible!!" 

Unfortunately the video's I took at the concert will not upload on this blog. If I every figure out a solution or alternate method, I will post it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Today I Can Take A Breath Knowing That Tomorrow I Can Take Another

Fallen - Sarah McLachlan

I have heard this song many times in the years since it's release in 2003, but when I heard it today on my way to an important meeting it felt like I was being slapped across the face. It spoke to me and at the same time it felt like all my feelings and thoughts were being told through the voice of Sarah McLachlan. And then I came home and searched for the video on YouTube and I literally could have been knocked over with a feather. Too often in the past couple of years I have been terrified to have a soak in the bathtub because I have been in the position where I wanted to just let go. To sink into the peace and comfort of the water. Of course, the thought of what the poor paramedics would find days or weeks later was just more than I could bear. Too much for anyone else to see. eyes! 

Sarah McLachlan may have written this as a love song. Some say it is about an affair - the pain of love that can never be, the abandonment of those that don't approve and the emptiness that comes from one mistake. Others say the subject is suicide. Let's face it, not many would intentional say that they wrote a song in the depths of despair for too many would latch on and make it an anthem. But as someone on the edge of the abyss, I can relate to this song on precisely that level. As can others, judging by comments posted on the video. One had stated that her friend was the strongest and weakest all at the same time before she committed suicide. I get that. I understand the hours that are spent every day planning one's own demise. Everyone of us suffers from pain but the darkness comes from despair and lack of hope. That is what people don't understand...that it can get so bad. It's not the size of the battle it's the will to fight it that makes the difference in the outcome - win or lose.

An interesting thing about Sarah's lyrics is the reference to wanting to change oneself to change the past. I personally spent a lot of time especially in the past 2 years, trying to change myself into someone that society would accept since they seemed to have not liked who I was. I had thought I was ok, a contributing member of society who tried to help where and who I could. I struggled with putting the wounded bird out of it's misery or letting nature take it's course. If it was in my power, I would have nursed it back to health instead of leaving it to survival of the fittest. I lived with the philosophy that no matter how bad things were, they could always be worse. And then time revealed all the wounds that wouldn't heal and the burden I carried on my back finally broke me. Therapists and mental health professionals even medical doctors began to tell me that everything I thought, all my perceptions, all the coping mechanisms I had put in place - were wrong. I was wrong. I was messed up and it was best that I accept that. Half the struggle through the mental health cycle is questioning your own self worth over what the professionals are telling you. I'm not talking about schizophrenia, bi-polar or manic-depressive illnesses that may all benefit from chemical restructuring and altered thought processes. I am talking about episodic specific depression. My biggest downfall was (and is) that I don't stand up for myself often enough. A shrinking wall-flower who would rather not be noticed.

Sarah McLachlan in her lyrics also nailed another commonality in my depressive journey. The loss of friends who don't or won't accept the changes that sinking so low bring about. From the simple "get over it" to the blatant ignoring. They really do turn their heads away as if embarrassed. But while some run in fear, there are others that stand strong where you are weak and are there for you. The true friends. Understanding is not a pre-requisite to being supportive. Don't laugh or snicker too loudly in disbelief, but I am not a talker. Yeah, I know, you'd never know it...but I am truly not the type of person to call and ask for help or even just reach out to people in times of need. Hell, I have I hard time reaching out to people just because I wanna hang out or something. It's something I want to work on. Shout out to one person who has been one of the closest to me in this journey - thank you for being there and being accepting even though I know it's been hard to see through all my tears of late. This is how one friend explained it to me - "I see your pain and tears but I remember your laughter and smile. I'm waiting for the day it will return and I want to be there for that."

Today I got the long awaited answer to my long and painful fight. Today I learned that I have been believed. Today, I can finally say that my struggles have not been in vain. Today I start the climb back up the mountain to where I can stand tall and proud of who I am again. Today I can take a breath knowing that tomorrow I can take another. Today, I am beginning to return to the person I was. But give me time, it won't happen overnight.

And now the lyrics to Sarah McLachlans insightful song. May it bring you as much comfort as it has me, for it is wonderful to know that you are not alone. 

Heaven bend to take my hand 
And lead me through the fire
Be the long awaited answer
To a long and painful fight

Truth be told I've tried my best
But somewhere along the way 
I got caught up in all there was to offer
And the cost was so much more than I could bear

Though I've tried, I've fallen..
I have sunk so low 
I messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here
And tell me I told you so...

We all begin with good intent
Love was raw and young
We believed that we could change ourselves
The past could be undone
But we carry on our backs the burden
Time always reveals
In the lonely light of the morning
In the wound that would not heal
It's the bitter taste of losing everything 
that I've held so dear

Though I've tried, I've fallen..
I have sunk so low 
I messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here
And tell me I told you so...

Heaven bend to take my hand 
Nowhere left to turn
I'm lost to those I thought were friends
To everyone I know
Oh they turn their heads embarrassed
pretend that they don't see
But it's one missed step
One slip before you know it
And there doesn't seem a way to be redeemed

Though I've tried, I've fallen..
I have sunk so low 
I messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here
And tell me I told you so...

Final thoughts: 
I have not changed. Who I think I am has. 
My appearance hasn't changed. My view in the mirror has.
My value hasn't changed. My perception of my worthiness has.