By Scott Roberts; photos by Sue Volkert
Like an unexpected visit from a reliable, old friend who you only get to see once every few years, a Blue Rodeo performance is like a warm embrace that fills your heart with happiness and makes you feel as if all is right, at least temporarily, with the world. The Canadian veterans — the core of the band has been together more than 25 years and their latest CD, 2009’s The Things We Left Behind, is their ninth studio album — made the packed confines of Smith’s seem like a comfortable living room with their hummable country-rock and quietly confident stage presence.
The band sauntered onto the stage and sort of fell into opening number “Cynthia” (from their 1994 CD Five Days in July) rather than launching into it. Despite the number of people onstage at any given time — the six band members often augmented by fiddle player Anne Lindsay and opening band Cuff The Duke’s vocalist Wayne Petti — the band was never too loud for the room (the drummer, in fact, used brushes the entire evening) and yet maintained a solid energy level throughout the 18-song set. Both singer/songwriters Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor’s songs were fairly equally represented, while both added signature vocal harmonies and tasty guitar or mandolin accompaniment to the others’ pieces. As expected, the band sprinkled songs from the latest CD (the uplifting “Never Look Back”; the Gram Parsons-tinged “Candice”) with songs from their extensive career, including crowd favorites “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” (which featured the heavily Canadian contingency in the audience singing the entire first verse and chorus by themselves) and encore “Til I Am Myself Again.”
Blue Rodeo don’t really break any new musical ground when they take the stage (nor is that their intention), but there is something so calming and reassuring about witnessing a band at the top of their game, expertly playing the music they know how to play, that make a show from these amiable Canucks an event not to miss.