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Royal Victoria Hospital Benefit with 54-40 and Code Blue
A few minutes south of Orillia, ON, literally out in the middle of nowhere, lies Casino Rama, an amazing entertainment complex consisting of a hotel, a casino, many restaurants and bars, and a 5000-seat theatre. Toronto is a couple of hours south, which can stretch into more than a couple of hours if traffic is bad, but we love the venue and never mind jumping in the car to make the trip, no matter how long it takes (and it did take over two hours).
The show on the 21st was to benefit the Radio for Cardiology Campaign (you can read more here), and tickets were perhaps a bit pricier than fans are used to paying. It wasn’t sold out, even in the smaller set-up for the room, and the crowd that did attend were a bit on the staid side, sitting for most of the night and not reacting very loudly at all unless really prodded to by any of the bands. That always brings the energy down a great deal for those in the room that prefer to enjoy themselves in more boisterous, noisy ways (we’re noisy; we’ll gladly admit it) and that’s a real shame, because the evening could have been something truly magical and spectacular. Instead it was just another typically great show by a couple of usually great bands.
The evening kicked off an hour earlier than originally scheduled when a band of doctors from the hospital, calling themselves Code Blue, did a set of covers that seemed to have all their families and friends up against the stage throwing down with their bad selves. It was actually very entertaining and fun; the doctors were more than competent on their instruments for the most part, there were some fine fine harmonies, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves a great deal, despite some obvious nerves. Their material was all over the place – rock, country, pop – but they should be proud of the performance they gave, and the reception from those not related or familiar was warm, genuine and deserved.
Presenting radio station 104.1 The Dock educated us on the critical need for the cardiology unit at the RVH in the break, and then Vancouver’s much-loved 54-40 took the stage. It was clear from the first note why they are so adored by so many. Hit after hit after hit, they didn’t let up for a second, and played with great energy, humour and warmth. Lead singer/head guru Neil Osborne is such a treat live, with a wonderfully soulful stage presence and an honesty and integrity in his performance that is undeniable and irresistible. He managed to get some of the crowd up on its feet during “Ocean Pearl”, and some even stayed standing (and dancing) for awhile before the end of the set. Always such a great treat to see them.
Another break, during which it was announced that since last fall The Dock’s campaign had raised $300,000 of its current $500,00 goal (and then Casino Rama donated another $50,000 on top of donating the entire facility and all the staff for the event), and the Trews came out to a genuinely warm reception from those who decided to respond. Right away John-Angus was a running, stomping dervish, peeling off guitar licks and banging his head like there’s no tomorrow. The opening chords of “Rise In The Wake” delighted the fans packed against the stage on either side and a few of us in the seats, and away they went.
There really aren’t words to describe the level of glee that accompanies seeing this band on a big stage with a great light show around and behind them. It’s a bit breathtaking to watch songs played a million times, like “Not Ready To Go” and “So She’s Leaving”, against a backdrop of a massive “THE TREWS” sign, swooping twirling lights, co-ordinated colour themes, and just a tiny bit of “smoke” in the air to give it all a great haze. The band didn’t disappoint, roaring from one to the next with enthusiasm and confidence.
Over the last few shows we’ve seen, Gavin has been settling in more and more, and this was no exception; to say he was on fire would not be an understatement. His comfort levels with the material and the other band members is more pronounced all the time, and he’s truly making the songs his own now, giving them his unique flare and style. It’s really a fabulous thing to watch progress.
Colin’s voice was in exceptional form, emotional and gut-wrenching for “Highway Of Heroes”, roaring and wailing for “Paranoid Freak”, alternately pure and screechy for “Oblivion”. “Beautiful & Tragic” becomes more fun with every show, and a slightly sped-up “I Can’t Stop Laughing” is always worth the price of admission. “Poor Old Broken Hearted Me” continues to be one of the greatest highlights of the set, with John-Angus whipping across the stage to play to both sides and Jack grooving so hard his head almost touched the floor. Colin jumped onto the drum riser to keep Gavin company and realized that it was a bit…well…wobbly, so he proceeded to make it move side to side while he was playing, amusing himself and making a startled Gavin laugh. But throughout much of the night he wandered the stage, mic in hand and not playing guitar, to perform to both sides of the room and up and out into the highest seats across from the stage, making sure that everyone was paying attention even if they chose to just sit and watch.
It was a sincere and heartfelt performance by the entire band that finally seemed to achieve its intended goal because surprisingly, everyone rose to their feet and demanded an encore, and then stayed there through a blistering, raging “Hold Me” that resulted in John-Angus jumping off Gavin’s kick drum while Gavin jumped off his stool, much to the delight of everyone in the room.
Not the most enthusiastic group of people to ever watch a show, but those that enjoyed it, enjoyed it a lot, and it was great to decompress afterwards with conversation and libation in the piano bar in the hotel (after losing the requisite $20 at the slots in the casino in record time).
Bring on the Time Capsule tour!