Sunday, June 18, 2006

Concert: Bachman and Cummings, June 17, Winnipeg

Bachman - Cummings First Time Around Tour
Saturday, June 17, 2006
MTS Centre, Winnipeg
attendence: 5000

Opener Serena Ryder was an unknown for most people, however, in her first song, she showed off her controlled, gritty vocal prowess and won over the audience. Armed with only an acoustic guitar and harmonica, this singer-songwriter proved why she is up and coming sensation with her lively, spirited songs and crisp guitar playing. Of course, covering Neil Young's Heart of Gold in Winnipeg of all places was a sure-fire way to get everyone on their feet with applause. Her cover of Hank Williams' Lovesick Blues also resonated well with the audience.

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Half an hour later, at around 8:30, a video montage began to play featuring clips of the performers from the 60s and 70s, with plenty of laughter at the wild hairstyles of The Guess Who, etc. The band took to the stage with American Woman, with a complement of seven members. Suddenly, to my disappointment, everyone stood up. I opted to sit in the stands rather than take my chances on the floor, where your view can easily be blocked out by taller fans. I was about 15 rows back from the stage, in the second row from the ice. I really dislike having to stand, if I don't have to, and I was relieved to see that less than halfway through the opening song, people on the floor began to sit down, and then everyone else did as well. I suppose it wasn't realistic to have so many 50 to 60-something fans up on two feet for two hours. Joining Bachman and Cummings on stage were five additional players including a drummer, two guitar players, a bassist and a back up singer but I didn't recognize any of them.

Having seen The Guess Who back in 2000 at the Winnipeg Goldeyes Baseball Park, I assumed that Bachman and Cummings would still be equally as brilliant, almost six years later. They were. Bachman's solos were clean and mistake-free. The virtuoso is a giant among electric rock guitar players and showed no signs of being some thirty years beyond his rock heydays with Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Burton Cummings, ever the showman, absolutely dazzled on the electric piano. He also played a Fender Stratocaster and a flute (for Undun). He told the story of how they were in the CBC building on Portage Avenue when Randy suggested that Burton try a new instrument for the new song, Undun. Cummings walked down to the Yamaha store, brought back a flute and the rest is history. He mentioned how he previously played Sax in the Devrons for a few years and didn't realize that the fingering for the flute was the same. What made the show special were the stories told in between songs, giving some interesting historical context to the music, much of which is proudly apart of Winnipeg pop culture heritage.

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They noted that after their recent CBC television special, they received a ton of e-mail thanking them for playing the Sting song, Shape of My Heart. While not a favorite of mine, they decided to include only in the Winnipeg show, even though they commented that they only have two hours and couldn't play everything from their massive collective catalogues of hit material.

They spoke about songwriting at the Cummings' house at 152 Bannerman Avenue where These Eyes was recorded in less than twenty minutes. They credited the song with being responsible for their prolonged careers. Bachman talked about how he often wrote half a song and then took it to Burton to have the other half created. He said one day, he wrote 3/4 of a song in F and coincidentally, Burton also wrote one in F, 3/4 finished. They combined the two and came up with the classic No Sugar Tonight/ New Mother Nature, which they introduced as "two, two songs in one," aping the Trident gum commerical.

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Randy Bachman talked about the ledgendary jazz guitarist Lenny Breau who gave him lessons during Bachman's time in high school in Winnipeg and how he formulated the jazz endings he learned into a song. Breau moved to Winnipeg from the US and while he was a very fine and influential player who incorporated classical, country and flamenco styles into his own unique style, he passed away in 1984, before he could achieve the type of acclaim commensurate with his talent.

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Lenny Breau

Cummings introduced a song that he said he hadn't sang in twenty years, which ended up going to number one in Winnipeg, Fine State of Affairs, from his 1980 album Woman Love, which was rejected by his record company, Epic/CBS for US distribution since they didn't hear any hits on it. This was despite the fact that his previous
album, 1978's Dream Of A Child was the top-selling album in Canadian history, for a while, going triple platinum and allowing Cummings to headline football stadiums. Hearing the opening notes to Fine State of Affairs instantly recalled my love affair with AM radio when I was a kid as I began to get into music.

The Thunderbird tracks. Several years ago, Bachman invited Cummings to record some new material in the guitar player's tool shed in BC. Cummings drove up in an old, back Ford Thunderbird. Bachman put the session onto digital video tape since DAT machines weren't in existence. Over the years, Bachman lost his tape. Cummings lost
track of his, too. In 2004, Cummings called Bachman and asked if he wanted to buy the Thunderbird. Bachman agreed and it was shipped to him. He had the Thunderbird club restore the car for him. They came to him with a plastic bag with assorted small items that they found in the car, including pencils, paper and...the only known
copy of the tape. It's been released now as the Tunderbird Tracks on CD. I didn't quite catch the fact that the CD was available for sale at the merchandise table, so I'll have to track down a copy another way. It's not being sold through regular record distributors. They didn't play any of these tracks but curious fans will no doubt snap up the CD.

Cummings spoke about the first song he heard by a Winnipeg band that made it to number one locally, as it made it seem possible to him to have a career in music. That song was Tribute to Buddy Holly,recorded by Chad Allen and the Reflections, back in 1962. Cummings said that they were recording all the shows on the 17-date tour for a live album and that when the album comes out, fans will know that this song was recorded in Winnipeg as this was the only time they were going to play it.

It was interesting to not only see children's t-shirts but to actually seeing parents buying them for their pre-teens at a whopping $45 each! In an interview from, Bachman recalled seeing three brothers in the front row with a sign saying "You Rock!" He later met the father backstage who mentioned that there were no
t-shirts in children's sizes. They've rectified the absence of t-shirts for kids and tapped into a whole new market of people so flush with cash that they will indulge their kids with B&C memorabilia, just to have them share in their affection for the two stars and the music.

I have not seen as many older fans since the recent Alice Cooper show. Without a doubt, the average age was in the 50s, with many fans older than that. With Messrs Bachman and Cummings at ages 62 and 58, it was to be expected to see so many grey-haired bodies. Classic rock is enjoying a revival, especially among younger
fans who are realizing that far from being dinosaur music, classic rock is timeless because the best songs are really that good. Currently, the Bachman-Cummings Songbook, a remastered collection of 19 songs released in late April, 2006, is reining at the top of the Canadian charts.

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Guess Who bassist Jim Kale owns the name The Guess Who. He registered it when he realized that it was overlooked. In order to tour as The Guess Who, they would have to pay Kale a royalty, something they didn't want to do. Last year, a classic rock festival in the Canadian Maritimes wanted to book the Guess Who, but were told they couldn't. They asked for Bachman and Cummings and despite the trepidation regarding the name, the fans came out in droves. The fans clearly know who these guys are and while they may never tour as The Guess Who again, there is an upside to the new name - they get to perform a wider selection of music outside of The Guess Who catalogue.

Here's the setlist, as best as I could remember it.
American Woman
Albert Flasher
No Sugar Tonight/ New Mother Nature
Shape of My Heart (Sting cover)
Break It To Them Gently
Timeless Love
Hey You
Tribute to Buddy Holly
Hand Me Down World (Kurt Winter, writer)
Fine State of Affairs (1980, # 1 in Winnipeg.
My Own Way To Rock
Clap For The Wolfman
Star Baby
Lookin Out For #1
Prairie Town
You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet
Let It Ride
These Eyes
No Time
Share The Land
Takin' Care of Business

My rating for this show is 5/5.

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