Review: Regent Theatre, Oshawa, ON, Nov. 16/12

By us! – The Trews Fans Network Original Content

It’s 2012 and your band has lived with your current incarnation for over ten years. You’ve toured your native land from side to side, corner to corner, and north to south so many times you’ve seen things probably no one else in the country has seen (except for other musicians). You’ve got new material available and you’re about to hit the road yet again. How do you keep it fresh for yourselves and your fanbase, a fanbase that’s growing every time you tour and/or release new material?

If you’re the Trews, you utilize modern technology and let that fanbase help you put together part of your show.

The second Canadian part of the band’s Acoustic 2012 tour started Thursday, November 15th in North Bay, ON, and they resumed what they had been doing during the few dates they did before heading to Australia for two weeks back in October: letting their audience decide the second set based on song requests posted to Twitter tagging the band, and putting in the hashtag #TrewsShow. A crew member then searches on the hashtag, and cues up the requests that are then shown on a screen behind the band during the second set. What ends up happening is that the band doesn’t know what songs will be requested and so they don’t know what their set list will be, a situation absolutely ripe for hilarity and non-traditional song requests.

The practice was a resounding hit at the few shows before the Australian tour, so they picked it up again for this second leg, and the fans at the Regent Theatre in Oshawa, ON, on Nov. 16th had a blast with it.

Coming onstage for the first set to a welcoming roar from the capacity crowd, the band took their seats and opened with “Oblivion” from the new 7-song EP, …thank you and I’m sorry. A bit tentative at first, it was clear the band was feeling out the audience and the room, seeing what kind of response they’d get. They needn’t have worried – that group of people were there solely to worship at the band’s feet, and the next song, “Power Of Positive Drinking”, also from the new EP, had everyone singing at the tops of their lungs.

Colin introduced the next song as one that was written acoustically but recorded electrically, and so they were going to play it acoustically based on the electric version, earning a laugh and loud cheer for perennial favourite “Can’t Stop Laughing”, always so interesting when it’s slowed down and dominated by Sean playing the bodhran. Rarer track “Locked Doors” followed, which had so many people singing along, with “Hope And Ruin” bringing the house down with the first real, official sing-along of the evening. And boy oh boy, did that crowd sing. Loud and proud and mostly on key.

Because of said singing, the next song – “Sing Your Heart Out” – fit perfectly into the mix with little encouragement needed to get those gathered to sing along some more.

Next up was another new song off the EP, “Lord Keep Me In Mind”,  and the band’s attempt at a gospel song. Brought forward to the band by Sean and written with country artist Billy Joe Shaver in mind, the harmonies on this song bring on the gooseflesh like few other songs have done in a very long time. That they can nail it so unbelievably well live is a testament to this band’s outstanding vocal talents.

Closing out the first set was the one-two punch of hits “Yearning” and “Poor Old Broken Hearted Me”, both of which brought fans to their feet dancing and cheering at the tops of their lungs. A short 15-minute break allowed those all-important trips back to the bar and the bathroom, and the band took the stage once again.

And then the magic ensued.

Not that the first set was boring or not well played or anything of the sort, far from it. These are exceptional musicians and masters of their craft; even their “worst” performances are better than most bands’ BEST ones, and the first set in Oshawa was exceptional. But when these young men are allowed to improvise a bit, allowed to play around a little and speak their minds, their shows are nothing less than mesmerizingly hilarious.

The first song requested was “Paranoid Freak”, which acoustically is very different from the electric in that of course it lacks the keyboards that are a trademark sound of the song; but it still works very well, and the boys laid into it smoothly, after reading the tweet and deciding they weren’t entirely sure what the tweeter meant when she said she is their “favourite intern” (the meaning of the tweet was never explained).

The emotionally-charged “One By One” followed, and then there came a request for “Herm-Aphrodite”. “H-A” is on the new EP, and the explanation Colin put forth was short and to the point: on a trip to the US, tour keyboardist Jeff Heisholt was propositioned by a 6′ 2″ transvestite and they thought it would be funny to write a song about it – so they did (to which John-Angus said, “…thank you and I’m sorry.”). The song by itself is very amusing, telling the story with clever word plays and arranged in sort of a 50’s musical style, with “sha-la-la’s” and deep harmonies for the background vocals. But in Oshawa the audience was actually listening to the lyrics and laughing at all the right spots, which then made the band laugh, and the whole thing ended up being hysterically wonderful.

Shot by Leann Schwartz, shared with permission.

The next song was a request for “Every Inhibition” which the band rightly determined actually meant “Every Inambition” and which had everyone bouncing along in their seats, and that was followed by yet another new song, “…And We Are The Trews”, the band’s unbelievably catchy tribute to Canadian rock bands from coast to coast (but in which they never actually name themselves). What was special this night was the way people cheered for different bands that were name-checked in the song; the Canadian pride was strong in the room.

Things took a serious tone next with “Highway Of Heroes”, which then became quietly amazing as one by one people in the audience stood up during the first verse of the song, to pay their respects for our fallen soldiers. By the end of the song, everyone was on their feet in an extremely moving tribute that only added weight to the song. Even the band seemed impressed.

Standard favourite “Tired Of Waiting” followed, after which Colin declared that happiness is a sing-along, and then the request came for “Man Of Two Minds” and perhaps the funniest part of the entire evening. This song is wildly popular with the fans, particularly the female fans, and this puzzles the band no end. Colin took the time to explain to us – while the band quietly started the intro under his talking – that in fact the protagonist of the song is actually “evil”. He’s cheating. And while he tries to write songs with sympathetic characters in them, this guy is in fact NOT such a character and that we should all hate him. Except that we don’t and they can’t understand that, so the audience was going to have to sing part of it to make up for liking him. Obviously it was MUCH funnier the way Colin told it, but it ensured loud enthusiastic singing on the part of the crowd, which suitably impressed everyone in the room. The set ended with a rousing rendition of “Ishmael & Maggie” (“this is our drinking, fishin’, womanizing song – well, I guess they all are tonight”) during which everyone managed to sing even louder, and then the obligatory wait for an encore.

They walked onstage and said they were going to do two more requests for the encore, which made everyone very happy, and then they turned to see “Burning Wheels” on the screen behind them. Colin and John Angus looked at each other and JA said, “I don’t even know how we would do that. How would we do that?” while Colin scratched his head, then turned to the room and said, “Well, we’ve never done this acoustically before”. They received a loud encouraging cheer from everyone watching, and they looked at each other one more time, then started the song. It was amusing to watch John Angus attempt to play his acoustic guitar as fast as that song demands, and Colin’s solo in it was just as fun. They pulled it off beautifully.

Shot by Leann Schwartz, shared with permission.

John Angus then said, “We can do two more songs. Can we do two more songs?” He looked at the screen, which showed a request for “Hold Me In Your Arms” (traditionally their closing song), then turned and muttered, “I guess it’s only one more.” and they launched into the song – which brought people to their feet and kept them there to the end.

What followed was another amusing highlight of the show: after “Hold Me”, John Angus looked at the soundboard and said, “One more. We’ll do one more.” and another request flashed on the screen – for “Black Halo”. John Angus turned to the audience and said, “Do you want an obscure track from our first album or ‘Not Ready To Go’?” The room cheered when he said “Not Ready To Go” and the screen flashed to a request for it which made everyone cheer again; then it flicked back to “Black Halo”, which made people sort of boo, before flashing back to “NRTG” and staying there. Amongst much laughter they blasted into “NRTG”, which brought the rest of the room to their feet and even had people approaching the stage on both sides of the room for much rambunctious flinging about and singing.

The acoustic Trews show is something extremely special to behold; it shows you just how talented this group of musicians is. Strip away the huge sound systems and volume, and you’re left with four young men who actually know how to sing (auto-tune shmauto-tune), actually know how to play their instruments, and can write intelligent, catchy, occasionally hard-hitting but always well-arranged songs that will stick with you for a long long time. The Oshawa show brought out longtime fans and made scores of new ones, and rightly so; it was highly entertaining, hugely amusing and as warm and personal a set of music as you’re likely to see anywhere or anytime else.



For the fans, by the fans. Since 2005.
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