Volume 91, Issue 68
Thursday, January 29, 1998
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
A brighter shade of Blue Rodeo
"WHO THE HELL BROUGHT THE BANJO?" One of Canada's premiere live acts hits Centennial Hall tonight for a sold-out gig. Not to worry though, they've added a second show on February 21st. Not to be missed!
By Jamie Lynn
Most record industry types and music programmers love it when artists make music that can fit into neat and easily defined categories. This gives them the marketing edge they need to locate their ideal music-listening demographic. Thankfully, Blue Rodeo has never been one of these bands.
After seven successful albums and 12 years together, Blue Rodeo has endured the drudgeries of proper self-promotion by simply offering a wealth of wonderful material unparalleled in Canada. The songwriting talents of the two frontmen, Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor, have enabled the band to both evolve and transcend past almost every conceivable musical category. By consistently reinventing their sound, Blue Rodeo has remained one of music's top acts.
"I just don't pay too much attention to these categories," explains Keelor. "I know what we're capable of and I know what our strengths and weaknesses are. I know when we're faking it and I know when we're sailing."
After Blue Rodeo completed the tour for the Nowhere to Here album from 1995, the band knew it was time for a break. In order to both recharge their Blue Rodeo batteries and explore new ground, both Cuddy and Keelor recorded solo albums. While Cuddy's album has yet to be released, Keelor's album, Gone, proved to be one of last year's finest recordings. While he believes that Blue Rodeo could just as easily have done a wonderful job with this record, Keelor said the idea was to try something different. As a result, the album proved to be a rare treat of personal and surprisingly subdued material.
"I just put together this great little band of Sarah [McLachlan], her new husband Ash [Sood, her drummer], Pierre [Marchand] and a few other friends. So then we set about recording the songs, without any great plan. I knew I wanted to record the songs simply and as close to the bone as possible. I just wanted to keep it beautiful in a sort of bleak, Canadian kind of way. It was all just a real joy."
So, after a short tour to promote Gone, Keelor and the rest of the band got back together to record their new record, Tremelo. Since they were returning from Blue Rodeo's first official vacation from each other, Keelor found the experience of getting back together invigorating.
"Everyone just seemed a lot more relaxed. It was nice to go from Gone into this chaotic rock 'n' roll thing. It was just a complete about-face where everyone is completely irreverent. There is also a kind of a mean sense of humour that runs through Blue Rodeo. So you can't take yourself too seriously and you gotta' keep your head up in the corner."
While the band did take flack for making Nowhere to Here a little too dark and brooding, Tremelo seems like a return to a brighter sound. Keelor insists, however, that this was a barely conscious decision as he found the recording process more spontaneous than on past projects.
"We hadn't rehearsed at all, so we would start a song in the morning, be recording takes in the afternoon and usually finishing it up in the evening.
"We tried to catch what we liked in the music sooner than later because sometimes you can overplay a song and you end up just playing a part, instead of what's making the song work."
Keelor also speaks very favourably about Blue Rodeo's latest tour. The band has been playing a variety of big and small towns across North America, mixing old favourites with the newer material. As a result, Blue Rodeo's always sparkling live show has been selling out everywhere, including tonight's Centennial Hall show and a three-night stint at Toronto's Massey Hall this weekend.
Besides what Keelor calls "a lower level of intoxication of the individuals on stage" over the years, the band has also been refining its skills. "We were a bar band for the better part of eight years, which was great, but we couldn't do that forever. While we've always known how to rock, we're now learning to roll a little more."
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