Although this was one of the band’s occasional quiet years in terms of touring, we managed to see them a few times just the same. To make things slightly different this time out, we’ll talk about the times we managed to catch them performing at other events rather than just their own shows or opening slots, and supplying links to videos we know of. As always, your mileage may vary with regards to these reviews. Links to set lists if they were posted, and you can check our Facebook page for any photos we might have posted. – TUTFN
March 14, House Of Blues, Cleveland, OH (opening for Red Wanting Blue)
In 2014 the band was scheduled to open for their American pals in Cleveland as well as do some of their own headlining gigs before and after it that ended up all getting cancelled because of work visa issues – in that they didn’t get them on time. They made it this year much to the delight of most everyone involved, especially the many many Trews fans that decided to attend despite the previous year’s problems. They were rewarded with a performance that started out blasting and took the assembled through a great mix of all the band’s different sounds; they were clearly determined to prove once and for all that the combination of themselves and Red Wanting Blue is a perfect pairing of two bands that complement each other in every way. To show just how great they are together, RWB’s lead singer Scott Terry and drummer Dean Anshuntz joined the Trews onstage for a lovely rendition of “Lord Keep Me In Mind” (RWB covered it for the Voice Project awhile back) and RWB in turn brought out the entire band (and the other opening act, Nick D & the Believers) for the encore and a highly appreciated version of Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova”. The Trews’ set was a great best-of featuring their biggest Canadian hits, and there was an organic, natural response to their performance from those in the audience who were hearing them for the first time. An exceptionally wonderful evening all around (and yes, we will gladly cop to our love of Red Wanting Blue). Set list.
April 1, K-Rock Studios, Kingston, ON
Before the band appeared at the Ale House on April Fool’s Day, they performed four songs acoustically and did an interview in the studios at Kingston’s rock radio station, and we were lucky enough to win entry through Twitter. About 25 of us were lead into a tiny room just off the sound booth and the band was set up on one side of the room; we all stood on the other side. The sound was crisp and clear, and the interview was informative and entertaining. They performed “Highway of Heroes”, “New King“, “Under the Sun”, and “65 Roses” with energy and enthusiasm and then came to speak to everyone in attendance after doing some on-air stuff with Sideshow, the dee-jay.
April 1, The Ale House, Kingston, ON
If there’s a city in Canada that loves this band it’s Kingston, and their fans show up to get their party on in droves. The Ale House isn’t exactly the best laid out place to see a band but if you can manage to situate yourself somewhere near the stage (not always easy there), usually the sight lines are clear and there is serious rocking to be had. And the boys supplied that with gusto at this show, opening with a blistering version of “New King” and not letting up for the next five songs. They were joined by various musicians over the course of the night, as they usually are in Kingston – the Tragically Hip’s Gord Sinclair and Rob Baker, Emily (who took over for Serena Ryder in “In The Morning”), and all of Glorious Sons, ALL of which joined them in the encore for the Rolling Stones’ “Rocks Off” – and set the already-excited crowd on their ear. A hot and sweaty, down and dirty evening of rock n’ roll at its finest. Set list.
April 25, The Studio At Hamilton Place, Hamilton, ON
There are times when one simply has to break the rules a little bit, and the band decided to do that during their appearance at this year’s Light Of Day benefit show in Hamilton. Originally billed as an acoustic performance by the band, they certainly fulfilled that part of the description in spades, with a set of six songs that led you to believe they would finish the night that way. But with the entire band at Colin’s mic to finish off “Ishmael & Maggie”, he surprised us all by saying they’d decided to do the rest of the show electric, and blasted into “Power Of Positive Drinking” to the extreme delight of everyone in the room. They were joined onstage by the E Street Band’s Jake Clemons, who had performed a set of his own original music earlier in the evening, and then Jake stayed to accompany them on “Tired Of Waiting” along with Peter Elkas, another artist from earlier in the evening. A wonderful, fun performance that really made everyone very happy. Set lists.
May 6, Unison Jam, The Phoenix, Toronto
During this year’s Canadian Music Week, the boys put in an appearance at a benefit for the Unison Benevolent Fund, a non-profit, registered charity that provides counselling and emergency relief services to the Canadian music community. It was called the Unison Jam because all the bands performing – Tom Wilson (Junkhouse/Blackie & The Rodeo Kings/Lee Harvey Osmond), Matthew Good (solo, acoustic), Jason McCoy, I Mother Earth, Finger Eleven, Kim Mitchell, and the Trews – all did their own songs but then members of other bands would get onstage with other bands for covers and collaborations. All of the performances were particularly inspired, it must be stated, as this is a cause that is dear to the hearts of many in the music community, and Tom Wilson was the best possible host they could have gotten. Colin and John-Angus joined I Mother Earth for a tight rendition of Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s “Ohio“, and then closed out the entire show with their own performance. They brought Kim Mitchell onstage with them to do his song “Easy To Tame“, and then he stayed onstage with them for “Hold Me”. In the middle of that, the band segued into a mini Led Zeppelin medley of “Bring It On Home” into “Communication Breakdown” that was absolutely mind-blowing. Colin hit every note bang on, and the combination of Kim and John-Angus on guitars anchored the entire thing to its crashing, smashing ending. People staggered deliriously away from the stage when the lights came up.
June 13, WTFest, Brantford, ON
WTFest’s inaugural show started with a bang, with a two-day show that featured Big Wreck headlining Saturday and Hedley headlining Sunday. The Trews performed on the Saturday before Big Wreck, with I Mother Earth preceding them, and local bands onstage during the afternoon. By the time the Trews hit the stage, those gathered were primed and ready, and Brantford’s previous love affair with the band was rekindled in the first few notes of “Rise In The Wake”, the opening number. It was a rip-roaring, face-blasting set, slowed down only for “Highway Of Heroes” (which is always worth it), and the audience soaked it in and blasted the band back with their appreciation. Set list.
June 18, 4 Chords & The Truth, Dakota Tavern, Toronto, ON
Songwriter circles can be truly an amazing thing to witness, and Colin’s appearance at this was event was indeed worth the efforts to get there. Hosted by Andrea England, the other guests were Liz Rodrigues and Paul Reddick, all consumate professionals in and of themselves. Together, this quartet – assisted most ably by guitarist Greg Cockerill – generated the kind of magic that only an intimate setting like the Dakota can host. A songwriter’s circle generally starts with the host performing a song and then each artist performs a song of their own in turn, usually going through the circle three or four times, depending on how long it runs for. Colin sang “Poor Old Broken Hearted Me”, “Ishmael & Maggie” and “Highway Of Heroes”, and then surprised everyone by asking Serena Ryder to join him and they did “In The Morning” for the first time live. We need to admit that we were pleased to see that the rest of the artists were as blown away by Colin’s performances as we were, and were particularly delighted when, after “POBHM” (his first song), they all admitted out loud that the bar had been raised almost too high for the rest of them for the rest of the evening. But it really just spurred them all on to try and outdo each other and themselves with every song, and that is the way that magic happens.
June 19, Woodbine Park, Toronto, ON
First night of Toronto’s Ribfest way out in the east end down near the lake, and the weather cooperated beautifully. Initially it didn’t seem as though there were many people there who were actually there to see the band and not just partake of the ribs and beer, but by the time the band took the stage (placed on top of a small hill with a fence at the bottom to keep revelers several meters from the band) there was a lovely sized crowd who seemed mostly glad to be there. For their part, the boys initially seemed a bit put off by the distance between themselves and the crowd, but their performance lacked nothing in the way of enthusiasm or heart. Several times John-Angus came down the hill to get closer to those assembled, and Colin even tried a couple of times, but his mic cord only went so far. To the extreme delight of the fans in attendance, the band brought Serena Ryder up to perform “In The Morning” with them, which was warmly and gratefully appreciated by all (and sounded great). By the encore the masses were dancing and sweaty, and it ended up being a wonderful summer evening of rock’n’roll. Set list.
July 9, Gage Park, Hamilton, ON
Another city with a long love affair with the Trews, this outdoor show in Hamilton’s Gage Park for It’s Your Fest was yet another fabulous summer evening of amazing music. From the time they stepped onstage until they left, they had the thousands in attendance in the palms of their hands and for good reason: the band was at the top of their game from start to finish, tight, together and raging through everything. They brought it down several hundred notches for a particularly inspiring version of “Highway Of Heroes”, when they brought out the pipe and drum band from Cpl Nathan Cirillo’s regiment in town (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders CA), and left not a dry eye in the park. The best part of the night (for us), though, was the introduction of two new songs, “Beautiful & Tragic” and “Lotta Work/Little Love” (this performance is from a show in Vancouver). The two songs reveal the range of guitar riffs the band are so very good at, from the pop-edged “B&T” to the down and dirty “LW/LL”; we really like both songs very much. The encore of “LW/LL” into “Not Ready To Go” into “New King” left everyone gasping for breath and wanting more. Set list.
August 2, The Kee To Bala, Bala, ON
We had ventured to the Kee a couple years previous to see the band and had had a really rather awful experience there, so returning wasn’t something that was high on our to-do list, and in fact we skipped their show there in 2014. But in a year when they weren’t playing all that much, the tug to get to as many shows as possible was too strong to deny the trip this time (we’re sure everyone understands that tug). The weather, though, was frightening to the point of terror and we feared we might have to pull over at one point, the rain was so unbelievable; we won’t even talk about the lightning show we were witness to. But we arrived safe and sound, and when all is said and done, it was probably the best show we saw all year. They came on stage to a roaring crowd and turned them completely upside down; there were people dancing so hard around us at one point that we were legitimately concerned they would end up on the floor – but everyone was just so happy to be there that it was overwhelming. And the band used that energy and ran with it in the face-blistering way that is so singularly theirs. They expressed their gratitude that everyone had braved the weather to be there and gave it 110% from start to finish. One of the highlights of the show was the performance of “Sing Your Heart Out” – it was just Colin and John-Angus, encouraging the room to sing along at the tops of their lungs (and boy, did they). It segued beautifully into “Ishmael & Maggie”, and the rest of the band joined them for the end. Really tremendously enjoyable and a different take on both songs. We were treated to an appearance by Joan Smith of Little Foot Long Foot in the encore for a raging, blasting medley of Led Zeppelin’s “Bring It On Home/Communication Breakdown” that flattened the entire building. We were only hoping for a better experience in Muskoka when we made our trip; we got so very very much more.
August 14, Ribfest, Lindsay, ON
Every once in awhile there’s a gig that can best be labelled as a bit strange by all measurable standards and this was one of them. Lindsay’s Ribfest takes place in the gorgeous Old Mill Park alongside Scugog River, where there’s even an old mill to account for the name. The entrance to the festivities was at the farthest end from where the stage was, so you had to make your way through the hundreds in attendance that were actually there for the food. The stage itself looked as though it was once an old railway station with the walls missing and a cement floor – but not a very big one. So the bands playing in it were in kind of cramped quarters, and there were thick wooden poles holding up the roof that were surely in the sight-lines of many in attendance; there was a three or four foot expanse of cement just around the building and then it was grass, so may of those there were on the grass all night. That was the first oddity. The second were the people who were there. Half of them seemed to know who the band was, a quarter seemed to not know and the rest were there to drink regardless of who was onstage; that was their sole reason for being there. So while the fans who were there knew when to sing along and what to sing – and did so loudly – the rest seemed perplexed or annoyed by the whole thing. It was truly a strange feeling. The band, however, came out swingin’ and didn’t let up. We were treated to the two new songs once again, and both just keep getting better the more they are played, “Lotta Work/Little Love” in particular. Colin needing to lie down at one point during the show and John-Angus climbing onto the super wobbly speaker stack beside him at another point really were indicative of how hard they threw themselves into it, and it ended up being a raging, stomping, shrieking, crooning performance that made all the oddness (and the bit of rain beforehand) worth the effort. Set list.
September 25, The Town Ballroom, Buffalo, NY
There is one venue left in which a Trews show must never be missed if at all possible, and that is the Town Ballroom (the other was the Industry in Sarnia, ON. RIP.). Quite apart from the amazing stage and sound system, the room itself is structured with different levels such that it’s almost impossible to NOT see the stage well no matter where you end up. But the crowd that shows up there is quite simply one of the most amazing audiences we’ve ever been a part of, every single time we go. They are ALWAYS beyond excited to see the band, they ALWAYS sing louder than all the other crowds (Sarnia’s audiences gave them a run for their money), they ALWAYS dance harder and cheer louder and just generally go more bonkers than anywhere else. It’s such an incredible thing to experience, and like we said, it’s that way every time. And because they throw such pure love at the band in such staggering intensity, the band likes to throw that love back just as intensely, so you get this amazing symbiotic thing that just keeps getting more intense as the show goes on. And we aren’t exaggerating even in the slightest. This night was no different; we got the warm, loving, sincere performance that fries your brains out and leaves you breathless and wobbly and demanding more. The highlights of the show were “Makin’ Sunshine”, which they always do in Buffalo now, and a surprising but blistering rendition of “Gun Control” that seared some flesh off. They also did “Beautiful & Tragic” again, but then pulled out another new song, “Goin’ Home”, that is very different from their other material; they’d performed it acoustically earlier in the day at a private performance at The Edge radio station in Buffalo that highlights the song better than it sounded onstage that night (), but we love it. All in all just another wondrous evening of music in probably our favourite venue. Set list.
November 6, The Ranch, Barrie, ON
Another venue that we’d been to previously in which we’d had a very not great experience and so had avoided for a couple of years. And another situation where the tug was just too strong not to give in. This was radio station Rock 95’s annual birthday bash at which Finger Eleven also played, and the station gave away some amazing prizes as well. Unlike a previous birthday bash for another station that we attended in 2014, Rock 95 was smart and gave all the biggest prizes away at the end of the night so if you wanted to win something you needed to stay all night. There WERE Trews fans in attendance, to be sure, and there was some great singing along, but it was also obvious that a great many there didn’t know much beyond “Tired Of Waiting” and “Not Ready To Go”. Still, the band played well and enthusiastically, and we got three new songs this time out: “Beautiful & Tragic” again, “Glorious Son” and “Chinese Kites”. “GS” is slower with a looping melody and is slightly different for them again. “CK” is a total Trews song – great melody, really catchy, full-on guitars but not overly heavy, more of a straight rock number. The tremendous surprise of the evening was the first song of the encore, a new electric arrangement of “Sing Your Heart Out” that was absolutely fabulous. It works so well, filling out the song wonderfully but still allowing the great call-and-response with the audience portion of the song to shine (and the harmonica is still featured). A performance which was worth the trip, and people won a lot of very great stuff. Set list.
December 9, The Andy Kim Christmas Show, The Phoenix, Toronto, ON
Andy Kim is a Canadian pop singer and songwriter who scored international hits in the late 1960s and 1970s and who, for the past 11 years, has been gathering local Toronto artists to put on a show in December to raise money for various charities. The past few years it has been helping the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) via its Gifts of Light Program and this year continued their efforts for them. The list of acts is usually pretty star-studded, and this year it was no different: Tom Cochrane, Barenaked Ladies, Michael and Margo Timmins (Cowboy Junkies), the Trews, Ron Sexsmith, Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning (Broken Social Scene), Beaches, Honeymoon Suite, Kardinal Offishall, Finger Eleven, Tom Wilson, and Tomi Swick. The show always sells out and each artist usually brings their A+ game, and this evening’s performances were no exception. The Trews played acoustically about two-thirds of the way through the night, and decided to make their choices mostly Christmas-themed: they started “Sing Your Heart Out” and then segued beautifully into John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)”, which got a massively positive reception and to which everyone sang along. And then they blew the entire room away by their wonderfully playful rendition of the theme to the movie “Christmas Vacation”. That was sweet and surprising and they won many new fans that night.
2015 was a slower year for us than some in the past but we’re so grateful we got to see what we did, and we’re really looking forward to everything coming up in 2016.
If you attend a show that you would like to review in 2016, please email it to us at email@example.com and we’ll get back to you ASAP.