Show brings back rock 'n' roll nostalgia

Justin Brake
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Concert review

Will Kidman stands behind his keyboard drifting in and out of orbit, his arms reaching out to the keys like he's touching happiness - like he's figured it all out.

Moments later he gives his microphone stand the ol' "Outta the way!" and knocks it to the floor like a protagonist marching toward the climax of his story.

Local rock musician Jody Richardson played a solo set to the sold-out Club One audience Thursday night. - Photo by Justin Brake/Special to The Telegram

Will Kidman stands behind his keyboard drifting in and out of orbit, his arms reaching out to the keys like he's touching happiness - like he's figured it all out.

Moments later he gives his microphone stand the ol' "Outta the way!" and knocks it to the floor like a protagonist marching toward the climax of his story.

You think, "This is rock 'n' roll!"

The Rolling Tundra Review 2009 tour launch at Club One Thursday night was a perspective-rekindling event that reminded me rock 'n' roll isn't a genre, it's an experience.

The Weakerthans and Constan-tines, from Winnipeg and Guelph, Ont., respectively, are two of Cana-da's most far-reaching bands making a go of it today - far-reaching in the sense that their music unites fans of power-pop, punk and alt-country, still finding itself branded with the ambiguous "indie rock" label.

A member of the sound crew runs up on stage while the Constantines are mid-song, picks Kidman's mike stand from the floor, adjusts it and places it inches from the flailing musician's mouth.

A few songs later, the mike plunges to the dirty stage floor again for an unknown misdemeanour.

Year after year, show after show, it's becoming clear that unpredictability is a profoundly inherent part of a touring rock band's life. My job is to share my subjective (because objectivity's dead) opinion of these nights.

Some nights are good, some are bad.

As I make my way from the entrance to the stage, pushing through the densely crowded bar to get a look at local rock musician and opening act Jody Richardson, I find myself drifting between two levels of consciousness, two very different places.

The stage is like a black hole, drawing everything near, and it's easy to lose yourself in the music. I suspect this is the part everyone's familiar with, hence why rock 'n' roll still hasn't died (unless I missed something).

Everything else is peripheral. But around you, in the periphery, there's something else going on.

It's a place in time where worlds collide. In fractions of a second, you can peer from one into the other and see how human relationships change and evolve in this setting.

People are yelling in each other's ears, making sure their opinions are heard.

When the Weakerthan's begin playing "I Hate Winnipeg" in their encore, a friend grabs my arm, "This ... is awesome," she says in a serious but excited tone. By the time I turn to her she's already returned to the other side.

The crowd begins singing along, chanting the same three words about the prairie town that seems so far away.

"What if they could hear us?" I think, ignoring the irony of the lyrics.

With rock show decibel levels as high as they are, any sound is subtle. But even the most unexceptional reminder of the real world threatens your existence in that forward-looking realm.

A beer bottle smashes on the ground and everyone turns their heads to see if the culprit is someone they know, then turn toward the stage again.

I move to the side of the stage and seat myself on the steps to snap a few shots of the Constantines.

Kidman abandons his keyboard, sits down next to me, and buries his head in his hands. I ignore him and keep looking through the camera. Seconds later he's at it again, belting out a tune and fighting with his microphone. People love it.

The Constantines, near the end of their set and lead singer Bry Webb promises a few more.

The crowd cheers and the band feeds off it. They launch into another song and everyone involved both on and off the stage grasps the moment, perhaps subconsciously recognizing its determinacy.

Heads are bobbing, fists are pumping, people at the front of the stage are squished to crap, but still smiling, and the band is feeding off the energy.

In this peripheral sphere where boundaries and borders are relative, Kidman stands up, staggers to the side and plunges three feet to the floor, landing on his back between the speaker and the stage.

The band stops when they realize he's not getting up.

They help him to his feet, apologize to the crowd and walk off stage as their fans cheer the epic ending to the first gig of the tour.

This isn't a review of a rock show - it's a review of the rock show.

You think, "This ... is rock 'n' roll."

Organizations: Rolling Tundra Review 2009

Geographic location: Winnipeg, Guelph

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