Saturday February 25 2017 – When we found out that The Classic Rock Show would be coming to Canada for the first time, we were very excited. Produced by the same company as Brit Floyd, we knew for a fact that both musicianship and production would be top-notch. The venue was the FirstOntario Concert Hall (formerly Hamilton Place) which seemed to make a lot of sense for the touring group’s first Canadian stop. Just about an hour outside of Toronto, Hamilton is much more of a blue collar town and thus has a deeper love of rock than what would be considered the natural place for the show (Toronto). The venue is beautiful and the acoustics crystal clear. Although the venue was far from full, it reminded us of the first time we saw Brit Floyd at Toronto’s Sony Center – each subsequent visit brought out much larger crowds and now it is an assured sell out. Side note Brit Floyd will be in Toronto on March 31 2017 so don’t miss that one!
First let’s introduce the band. Johnny West and Rudy Cardenas (the only 2 Americans in an otherwise UK band) took turns on vocals. Emily Jollands took on some vocals, some keyboards and some on stage grooving. Howie G and James Cole had the guitars with Wayne Banks on Bass. Henry Burnett on keys and Karl Penney on drums rounded out the roster. Essentially 8 people on stage with rotating vocalists.
The show starts of with a montage of classic rock album covers on the video screen reminding us of some of our favorite ‘artwork’ of the era where rock was king. It should not be too hard to guess what song would kick off the night as the undisputed kings of classic rock Led Zeppelin were represented with a killer version of Whole Lotta Love. Singer switch and glide into The Eagles with Life in the Fast Lane. The video screen above the drum would usually show the album cover of where the song originated from throughout the night and did so with Deep Purple and Highway Star for song number 3.
What we were not sure of at this time was would this show focus on the harder side of classic rock as the first three songs indicated or would there be variety? Well with Steely Dan‘s Reelin In The Years and Journey‘s Separate Ways up next we knew the answer would be that this show would span the range of rock.
Case in point? Next up is some heavy blues with Fleetwood Mac and no it’s not Go Your Own Way. It’s Oh Well and it’s the highlight of this show for real classic rock aficionados this gem from 1969 featured Peter Green not Lindsey Buckingham (who didnt join the Mac till much later). If you prefer the Nicks-Buckingham era of Fleetwood Mac next up was Rhiannon which highlighted Jollands as the female vocals took front stage.
Man this music somehow gets on a killer flow and reminds us how the 70s was THE decade for music with The Doors and the moody Riders on the Storm. 45 minutes into the show the swan song of classic rock presents itself with that infamous guitar chord intro. Why bother showing the album cover when a simple staircase with the words Led and Zeppelin are enough? Simply put if there is ever a song that needs to be in a classic rock tribute show it’s the song that makes us remember laughter. Stairway to Heaven was delivered with perfect execution and flawless rhythm. Two songs left before the intermission and the audience claps, stands and even dances for ZZ Top‘s La Grange. Even the screen changes its static images to some Eliminator style live car footage. Of note, the guitar wall of sound on this tune easily wins the audience over. Last up for the last half – Live and Let Die: Paul McCartney or should we say Wings. The show was exactly 60 minutes long heading into the intermission and the audience is really into it. Plan for a 20 minute break and get back to your seat for Kansas and Carry on Wayward Son and right after that song we are told this is the very first Classic Rock Show in Canada ever. We are certain it will not be the last as the musical jukebox so far has kept its promise.
The show at this point took a slightly poppy turn with Boston‘s More Than A Feeling which gets the audience to liven up. Dire Straits and Money For Nothing with the original MTV video playing is next and finally Rosanna from Toto. Not really classic rock in my mind and if there was 1 song I would replace in the setlist it would most certainly be this one. In fact the energy of the audience took a bit of a dip at this point but the rejuvenation was not far away as we get back to business with The Beatles and the real heart of classic rock. While My Guitar Gently Weeps really sounded majestic tonight with the lyrics really shining here and the beautiful montage of The Beatles on the screen really brought this song forward.
Meatloaf is next with Bat Out Of Hell (the song from the album of the same name). The band urges everyone to get up and party, and the polite Canadians oblige. Everyone in the place is on their feet and well it has to be for AC/DC I guess. Highway to Hell is the party song and the chameleon singers keeps changing voices to adapt to the band’s they are covering. Very well done and of course the party continues with Van Halen Jump.
Verdict: Killer show with a full time warp experience that delivered killer rock to an audience hungry for the days when that musical genre was at its best. Very talented musicians with an excellent production. Canada awaits your return guys (and gal).