Written by us!
The weather in Ontario this particular weekend was not very accommodating to – well, anyone at all, and on the 8th the province got one of the worst snow storms it has had in literally years. It fell hard and fast pretty much all day and, although your faithful TFN scribes attempted to get to Sarnia from the Toronto area (usually about a 3 hour jaunt), the idea was abandoned after 2.5 hours spent on the road but not even being out of the Toronto area by then. The wind, the snow, the lack of plowing, the people driving badly and off the road, the lack of visibility – it all conspired to turn us back to the safety and warmth of families and homes. That meant we missed the acoustic show they did in Sarnia that evening which, by all accounts, rocked like only a Trews acoustic show can.
So we attempted the trip again on the 9th to attend the electric show, under clear blue skies and on mostly plowed roads. Insult was added to injury when we realized that there was much less snow through the London area and on towards Sarnia, a part of the province that usually gets far far more snow than Toronto. The trip was uneventful, though, and we managed to get to the cavernous Industry Theatre shortly after the doors opened.
Opening for the band on both nights was Columbus, OH, band Red Wanting Blue, who the Trews had with them for most of the acoustic shows in the fall of last year. This evening, though, was the first time RWB got to do their electric show for a Canadian audience, and to say they did not disappoint in any way, shape or form would be an understatement of the highest degree. Once again a packed Canadian venue took to this band like we’ve seen many packed American clubs take to the Trews, and it was heartwarming and gratifying to experience.
Their stellar performance, however, seemed to serve as a catalyst for the Trews to up their game; the boys came blasting onstage and quite simply did not let up for the entire show. They were very clearly determined to make every single person in that room remember just exactly who they had been originally there to see.
There probably is no finer way to open any show anywhere than the 1-2-3 punch-in-the-gut combination of “Power Of Positive Drinking”/”Not Ready To Go”/”So She’s Leaving”. By the end of “SSL” everyone was left gasping for breath because of the sheer intensity the band was chucking off the stage. So “The World, I Know” was a tiny bit of a let up – except that slid into “Paranoid Freak”, which turned the room into another gasping heap of moving bodies. It was getting really really hot in there by the time “Sing Your Heart Out” showed just how loud the crowd in there really could be.
Two songs off the latest ep, …thank you and I’m sorry, followed next, and was an absolutely perfect way to show off back to back the enormous talents of this band: “Lord Keep Me In Mind” with its ethereal, other-worldly harmonies and “Oblivion”, about as perfect a rocker as has been crafted.
Fitting “One By One” into the intro of “Tired Of Waiting” has always been an inspired piece of set-list writing and serves to give the song a great but different feel, but there’s nothing quite like the band stomping through “Tired” like it was the first time they’d ever played the song; very few bands can breathe that kind of life into a song that they have played so very very many times, but these guys make it fun and exciting every time.
“Yearning” always brings the house down, in no small part due to John-Angus’s blistering solo at the end, which proved highly entertaining this evening as he once again used Colin’s mic stand to help make some truly amazing sounds. Then it was a truly bouncy version of “Fleeting Trust”, with the signature John-Angus head bang during the solo, before a lovely and inspiring version of “Highway Of Heroes” that had the crowd singing louder than any other song that had been played thus far.
While encouraging the crowd to start clapping during the intro of the next song, “Can’t Stop Laughing” (which he started by saying rather matter-of-factly, “*I* can’t stop laughing…!”), Colin demanded that every single person in the room clap their hands, pointing all over the place as he did so. Then he continued on with, “Get on your cell phones and tell people who aren’t here to clap their […] hands too!” before the band quite literally exploded into the song guaranteed to have people swinging off rafters and throwing themselves about with great abandon.
What made this an extra-special performance of the song was the way they segued into “Leaps And Bounds”, their one cover from the latest ep, during the clap-along portion of “Laughing”. It worked so seamlessly that hopefully they’ll keep doing that, because their version of Paul Kelly’s late 1980’s song is truly *truly* wonderful.
Almost forgetting to finish off “Can’t Stop Laughing” resulted in more giggles as Sean started up the same beat on the cowbell after they were done, only to slow things down like a wind-up toy losing its wind-up, which flowed into the intro to “Poor Old Broken Hearted Me” and had everyone in the room throwing themselves around while singing at the tops of their lungs. A phenomenally fast and furious drum solo by Sean gave everyone else a short pause after which they returned for a blistering, shrieking, face-melting version of “Hold Me In Your Arms” that left not a single person taking in oxygen well to end the set.
The encore started with “…We Are The Trews”, which once again had people cheering for the bands they love that are name-checked at the end, but we were treated to a very rare sight: John-Angus joining Colin at his mic to sing those very band names. We would not be averse to that happening with more frequency.
“Ishmael & Maggie” followed, which surely had the walls shaking with the volume of the fans singing along, but then “Hope & Ruin” followed that, and the threat to the foundation of the building from the sounds from so many throats became a real concern. Sarnia never ever disappoints in the sing-along category, but it might have been louder than ever during this show.
The evening ended with a mind-altering, raging, stomping version of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World”, which featured Red Wanting Blue joining the boys onstage for some truly spectacular dynamic change-ups and vocal histrionics that surely had even people in the bathrooms at the back singing along at the tops of their lungs. The roar of approval as the bands walked off stage was genuine and well earned.
The weather may have conspired to cut the trip in half, but the efforts to get there were more than worth it in the end. A finer night of music was surely not found anywhere else.