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Monday, April 6, 2009

The Rolling Tundra Revue – A Pop Top Ten

$100, The Constantines and the Weakerthans in Performance at the London Music Hall

Oscar Wilde once said, “The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.”

With those prescient words in mind, in lieu of a standard concert review I thought I would provide my top ten concert moments from the Rolling Tundra Revue which rolled through London on Friday night at the Music Club. An engaging show from start to finish this one affected me- Affected me in a very good way; something I think, that only music is sometimes capable of. Affirming, loud, raw, endearing, proficient, joyous and passionate this one fired on all the cylinders. One of those “remember when” concerts even before the Weakerthans had even left the stage.

10. The London Music Hall - Never having patronized this venue I was pleasantly surprised by the spaciousness and large stage setup. The sound system was more than capable of handling the varying dynamics that each band brought to the stage. The perfect venue to handle the very sizeable crowd of musical revelers.

09. Great Band Merchandise – I didn’t buy one but the Constantines bright red Russian althete style type hoodie thing seemed to be a popular choice. So nice to see a variety of t-shirts, buttons, CD’s and photo books being offered to fans at reasonable prices to boot. Be sure to look for a ‘Weak Cons Serve‘ enviro themed button when the Revue blows through your town.

08. The Pure and Overwhelming Joy that is John K. Samson – I am quite certain the smile never left Weakerthans frontman John K. Samson’s face from the moment he took the stage on Friday night. Clearly, bringing the rock to the masses brings great joy to this man. He just does it with such apparent natural ease. It’s all very contagious too, the audience ate him up. And we all know those mutual love fests can be a bit strange at times. This one though was genuine and affecting. Samson is just a nice guy. The kind of guy you go out with for a beer on a Saturday night. The Weakerthans brand of power pop the perfect antidote to the cold and windy night outside.

07. Can I Get a Witness? Bryan Webb’s guitar athletics are always a compelling thing to watch. Hoisting his instrument above his head the move perhaps more NHL than Hendrix, the man is always delivering. How he can manage to sing "Nightime/ Anytime" night after night and not shred vocal cords is astounding to me. Canada’s other poet laureate of rock is a force to reckon with and Webb and the rest of the Constantines always deliver the goods precisely and with great volume. Points to Webb when he apologized for an errant loogie accidentally directed towards some front row enthusiasts. No word if said souvenier has shown up on Ebay listings yet.

06. Anonymous Audience Guitar Solos – The last time I saw a musician invite someone onstage it deteriorated into drunken guitar karaoke and it just didn’t work. When John K. Samson invited audience member ‘Dave’ to the stage to finish the business end of some Weakerthans power chords it was like he was asking us all up to be a part of an unforgettable show. No, this one did not disintegrate, it only made a strong performance even stronger.

05. Feeling Fifteen Again – One of the first concerts I ever attended was a Ramones show here in London that ended up being a life changing experience. It was the first time that I had experienced that special communion that sometimes occurs between band and audience when attentions are so focused the world just seems to stop for a little while. Friday night’s show felt just like that. For three and a half hours I forgot about my ill performing mutual funds, overdue work projects and tax preparations and it felt terrific. Proof positive that the solution to the current global economic crises might just be rock n’ roll. Joey Ramone would have been proud.

04. I Am Canadian – Perhaps it was the name, The Rolling Tundra Revue but this whole event had distinctly Canadian vibe. Straight outta the ‘Peg if you will. Yes, the Weakerthans did in fact play “Tournament of Hearts” and maybe that’s what did it. I just think it wouldn’t have been out of place to see CBC Sports covering this show with appropriate between song commentary (Note to organizers -Do me a favour and next year and just call this one The Tour de Bonspiel. I really want to see Cons Tams and Weakerthans emblazoned curling brooms made from the hair of John K. Samson at the merch table.)

03. $100 – As I was entering the venue I overheard someone remark that “some Americana type band” would be opening the show. I was tempted to tell that dismissive gentleman to remember this date because it won’t be long before all of Canada knows who $100 is. Simone Schmidts hurtin’, whiskey soaked croon is hypnotic and pure country. Reduced to a trio, the band opened the night on exactly the right note. $100 may not have brought the volume to the proceedings but they did bring the emotion. Not 100% sure of the song title but the new one about “Fort McMurray” was inspired. This is one VERY talented band. Regrettfully this will be the only show the band will be participating in on the Rolling Tundra Revue. It did my heart proud though to hear Schmidt channeling Sylvia Tyson and Patsy Cline at a rock n’roll show. (Among the nicest musicians I have ever met too!)

On a related note, their instore at Grooves earlier that afternoon was exceptional. Many thanks to organizers for making that one happen. I felt very lucky to be in attendance.

02. Audience Singalongs and Participation - How wonderful is it to hear six hundred people screaming “hurry, hurry hard” in unison? Or witness six hundred outstretched arms punctuating 'Cons' power chords. Only in Canada I suppose… (Interesting to note that all three bands would encourage audience members to participate in extended sing alongs at key points in their respective sets.

01. The Beguiling Charms of the Singers SongSimone Schmidt, Bryan Webb, John K. Samson all brought a palpable hypnotic charm to the evening and held us in their grip from start to finish. All are polished front people with certain grace and an appeal most magnetic.

Friday night was indeed an unforgettable evening of music and if you’re fortunate enough to have tickets on one of the remaining dates you are in for a rare treat. I left the venue happy and perhaps a more "educated" critic. Thank you to Allison White for the tickets I definitely owe you one or three for that. Tim Turner, it was terrific to meet you. It’s always a great thing to meet people who are passionate about music.


Allison said...

Your blog just scared me half to death. One of your ads started talking, and then the phone started ringing. I've since turned off the sound. ;)

Anyway, well, if I would have known the concert would have been that good I wouldn't have passed along the tickets. ;p So glad I did though, I would have never gotten this great of a review from anyone else.

Its amazing the feeling of hearing great live music, isn't? I remember seeing Black Rebel Motorcycle club in the basement at my uni in Newcastle and having a real concert shaping experience. They pushed you to the edge and as they swooped down with their instruments, the brief moment where the stage lights dance as you do, it feels like you are in fact on stage too.

Off to check out $100 on MySpace! :)

T said...

Sean - THANKS!!!! Excellent review.

Re $100 - the Fort McMurray song is called Black Gold. It is not recorded yet, but its pretty neat that both you and I picked up on it as something special. They've written an anthem - a modern version of Four Song Winds, except with VLTs and heavy trucks.

I asked about it later and it's going to be on the next 7 inch or something.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

What a wonderful review, Sean. I have been sitting here reading it with a huge grin on my face, just living every moment through your words.

The night I saw the Cons and the Weakerthans play together about 3 or 4 years ago was one of the finest concerts of my life. Each band on their own is so incredible, but seeing them play together, well the sum is far greater than all the parts.

I can't wait to see them in a couple of weeks. Thanks for the appetizer.

Phronk said...

I've heard so many good things about the Weakerthans (and this show in particular), that they must be set to blow up in popularity any time now.

Where did the Ramones play in London??

Sean Wraight said...


My apologies. I really shouldn't be scaring the readership off now should I.

Thanks again for the tickets. I definitely owe you own or five for that. Next time you are home visiting perhaps you will consider a trip to London to see something.

You are so correct about those magical concert moments too. They are so rare but so wonderful when the happen. They stick with you forever.


Mr. Tim, No THANK YOU. It was so great to meet you too. I appreciate the information you provided in your comment too. That was a true concert highlight.

Thank you too for passing the link on to Simone et al. They are truly one of those bands destined for success. Incredible talent!



Glad you enjoyed the review. :) I look forward to hearing your assessment. I predict here and now your face will hurt more than your ears the next day though. A truly huge smile inducing event is highly likely.


It was a great show. One that I will certainly remember. And to answer your query. The concert I referred to was an appearance on May 20th 1980. (The day Mt. St. Helen's blew its top) That show changed my life.

Were you even on the planet at that time?


Thanks for stoppin's by!