Blue Rodeo had Mile One singing

Ken
Ken Simmons
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It’s not like we don’t know what to expect, sitting at Mile One waiting for Blue Rodeo to take the stage for the band’s only date in Newfoundland on its 25th anniversary tour.

The band has played the province in so many different venues, so many different times, that only the most ardent fan could keep count.

I'm willing to wager none of the band members has any idea what the number is, either.

And at this point they don’t care. A quarter-century in and they can still pack an arena in just about any town in the nation. Why should they care how many visits it took to get to today?

There’s a reason for that kind of draw, not the least of which is a steady stream of great songs.

Right from the band’s kickoff album, “Outskirts” in 1987, Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy have laid out track after track that bend genres and stretch across every demographic any record company exec could ever devise.

Even today, there is no generation gap in Blue Rodeo fandom. Children love their songs, as do seniors, college kids and their parents. You could call Keelor and Cuddy a country Lennon and McCartney, if they were country.

But they are not.

Sure, the roots are there, the jangling guitars from that first album, echoed Saturday night — with a stage-tempered edge — on “Piranha Pool,” “Outskirts” and “Heart Like Mine,” the latter the second encore which closed the show.

That edge is sharper still when the band leans into the guitars, drummer Glenn Milchem drives them forward, and tunes that started with a Nashville twang take on a New York growl.

Consider Colin Cripps’ jaw-dropping solo in “Five Days in May,” for example. Greg Keelor appears to have handed off guitar duties to Cripps (nice choice), a technically astonishing player on stage who possesses the ability to summon the instrument’s deepest passions.

These songs, as much as 25 years old, some revived just for this tour, are as fresh as the day they came out of the oven.

Tweaked arrangements and new players don’t change the music. They invigorate it, as Cuddy’s barnyard-soul turn at the piano does for “After the Rain.”

For the rest of the night, the ivory tickling was left to the considerable skills of Mike Boguski.

Bob Egan’s pedal and lap steel guitars offered the right level of heartfelt whine, and bass player Bazil Donovan rounded out the lineup.

You can’t discuss a concert in St. John’s without mentioning the Mile One choir. The near sell-out crowd was singing well before Keelor invited their participation on “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet,” and when he said, Give ’er, they did.

And when the show wrapped up after almost three hours, they would happily have continued “giving ’er” for another three.

Blue Rodeo plays Moncton, N.B., tonight before heading into Ontario for a bunch of dates, with short excursions to Quebec City and Montreal, before finishing off the tour Feb. 16 in Hamilton, Ont.

 

Ken Simmons is The Telegram’s new media editor.

Twitter @Ken_Simmons_NL

Tumblr rocknrolln.tumblr.com

 

If you missed the show, here are the songs Blue Rodeo played at Mile One Saturday:

 

First Set:

“Cynthia”

“One More Night”

“What Am I Doing Here?”

“Piranha Pool”

“Bad timing”

“Diamond Mine”

“Fools Like You”

“How Long”

“Five Days in May”

 

Second Set:

“Out of the Blue”

“Tell Me Again”

“Matawa”

“One Light Left in Heaven”

“Never Too Late”

“Photograph”

“Dark Angel”

“Summer Girls”

“After the Rain”

“Outskirts”

“Til I Am Myself Again”

“Hasn’t Hit Me Yet”

“You’re everywhere”

 

First Encore:

“Try”

“Head Over Heels”

“Lost Together”

 

Second Encore:

“Heart Like Mine”

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Nashville, New York Moncton Ontario Quebec City Montreal Hamilton

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