Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans, Nov. 2, Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts
I’m spoiled and I know it. Toronto is the New York City of Canada, and every touring band/artist comes through Toronto at least once every few years, sometimes every year (Drive-By Truckers), and sometimes several times a year (Tim Barry). Except for Two Cow Garage, but that’s another story. I’m even more spoiled by the fact that I live within stumbling distance and/or a cheap cab ride from all of the major and minor music venues in the city.
Despite living in a killer music city and dwelling in close proximity to the music venues, I’ve had terrible luck tying to see Corb Lund and his band The Hurtin’ Albertans. I’ve been out of town when they have been here, or something has come up. Last year I tried to see them at the Horseshoe, and I got infectious gastroenteritis and landed myself in the hospital for three days. Not good, but at least I got some morphine out of it. I did catch Corb and the boys at Hillside this past summer, but I really wanted to see them play a full set.
I was pretty excited when it was announced on Lund’s web site that they were doing a mini tour of Ontario this fall. But then I became less excited as I realized that there were no Toronto dates, and I would have to drag my sorry ass to the suburbs to see them. Gawd I hate the suburbs. Again, I’m fucking spoiled. The great ones play through the pain, so I sucked it up, battled rush hour outbound traffic, and drove out to charming Oakville, Ontario, to finally see one of my favorite acts play a full set.
As coincidence would have it, Nov. 2 was also my birthday. I hate birthdays. What’s more, I really, really hate birthdays that fall on US federal election day. Last time this happened, George W. Stupid was re-elected president. If I had stayed home instead of heading to Oakville, I just would have spent the night throwing empty Budweiser cans at the TV. Furthermore, my parents still think that I am a 19-year-old broke college student, so they always send me a wad of cash for my birthday. So, this concert not only got me out of the house, it was also a birthday present from my folks. Thanks Rockstar Maw and Paw!
The Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts is a roughly 500-seat theatre in the heart of downtown Oakville. Not surprisingly, only about half of it was full when Lund and his band took the stage. They opened with “This is My Prairie,” a song off of the wonderful 2009 album Losin’ Lately Gambler. This is an environmental song that questions the need for greedy oil companies to be digging up the land the Lund grew up on. Now, here is how our friends at Wikipedia describe Oakville: “The median household [in 2006] income was $83,982 with an average house value of $306,209. Oakville is among the most affluent municipalities in Canada.” So when Lund sings, “Take a good look at the stock that you own,” the irony that about half of the people in that auditorium probably own oil company stock was not lost on me.
Lund and his band played for nearly two hours, playing a range of fan-favorites from their last four studios albums, plus a few new tracks, plus a few killer covers, with Lund telling stories and goofy quips between several of the songs. Despite the fact that the southern Ontario mini-tour was all in theatre-style venues, Lund commented, “A bar is our natural habitat.” What a coincidence! That’s my natural habitat too! But there are a few good things about theatre shows: 1) Families can bring their impressionable teenagers to them. 2) There is not some tall irritating drunk guy standing in front of me (although there was an annoying couple making out next to me). 3) The sound is usually better than the in bars. 4) You can actually see the musicians and appreciate their well-honed craft. Per point number four, I could actually see drummer Brady Valgardson switch from sticks to mallets to brushes, and even play marching band style on “I Wanna Be in the Cavalry.” Grant Siemens rocked the electric guitar, mandolin, and steel guitar. Sweet Jesus he’s good. Kurt Ciesla on upright bass had a few wonderful solos throughout the show.
For most of the night Lund had his black hat pulled low, almost covering his eyes. He dedicated “The West Just Fades Away,” a song commissioned by CBC Song Quest, to his father (you can stream about 30 seconds of the song here). He didn’t leave his mom out either, dedicating another environmentally-themed song to her, “The Truth Comes Out.” He surprised and delighted the hell out of me by covering the Ray Charles/Willie Nelson classic “Seven Spanish Angels.” Overall, it was a pretty damn good night of music.
Despite the fact that I would have rather spent my birthday drinking and watching one of my favorite bands in a bar (I was getting a little squirrelly in my seat by the 1.5 hour point), I could not complain about the quality of the entertainment for that evening. The other good thing about theatre shows is that they are over early. Yay Oakville Tuesday nights! I was back home eating cake, drinking bourbon, and throwing things at my TV by the time I usually go out for a show in Toronto.
1. This is My Prairie
2. I Wanna Be in the Cavalry
3. Horse Soldier, Horse Soldier
4. Student Visas
5. Five Dollar Bill
6. Drink Like You Mean It (? new ?)
7. Big Butch Bass Bull Fiddle
8. The Oil’s Back In Town
9. Carefree Highway (Gordon Lightfoot cover)
10. Devil’s Best Dress
11. The West Just Fades Away
12. Alberta Says Hello
13. (Gonna) Shine Up My Boots
14. Hurtin’ Albertan
15. Chinook Wind
16. Long Gone To Saskatchewan
17. The Truth Comes Out
18. Heavy and Leaving
19. Expectation and the Blues
20. It’s Hard To Keep A White Shirt Clean
21. Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer
22. Seven Spanish Angels (Willie Nelson/Ray Charles cover)
23. Time to Switch to Whiskey
24. Little Foothills Heaven
25. A Game In Town Like This
26. The Rodeo’s Over