Saturday, April 07, 2007

Dr Hook feat. Ray Sawyer
Johnny B Club Whitby ON

Johnny B's is a roadhouse bar just off Highway 401 a few miles east of Toronto. The only thing missing is the cage around the stage. It's in downtown Whitby, one of the bedroom communities that contain Toronto's urban sprawl. Everyone with a good union job or middle-management position in the '70's and '80's thought they were movin' on up as they left the big-bad-city for the 'burbs. Didn't quite work out that way as union jobs and middle-management positions are on the endangered species list. Whitby, if it ain't the place the mullet was born it is the place it went to die in the guise of a skullet.

Secondarily, if we're ever in need of a large supply of bleach to fight an offensive in a chemical war...I'm sure there are gallons of it in Whitby. More faux-blondes-per-capita than Hollywood. I would have asked one of the ladies why someone with lovely blonde hair like hers would die her roots black, but I thought better. In Whitby, when you insult a girl she calls her boyfriend he can hold her smokes and beer while she kicks your ass. Think of them as urban-hicks.

Which is why it's the perfect place for the likes of Dr Hook.

In an attempt not to be early for an event (a symptom of my OCD) we don't even leave home until 20 minutes after doors. Inside the cozy bar (capacity probably 200) I'm smilin' hard as I only have 20 minutes before show time...not to gruelling. Time for a quick Jack and coke...only to have them announce we have an opening act, ironically named Roadhouse. Eh, how bad can it be? A 45 minute set then the Dr will be on at 9 pm. Or so I thought. Sometime around 10:20 the band was wrapping up it's extensive 'opening' set. (FTR, it was only 10 minutes shorter than the main set.) Not bad for a garage cover band. Good song selection for this crowd of boomers. I remember The Letter, Stuck in the Middle With You, and a more than passable version of Billy Idol's White Wedding.

I'm standing at the soundboard for tonight's show, hoping I'm not too obvious with my rig. I did move into the crowd for a couple songs but the 'room noise' was pretty much the same drone no matter where you stood. With a crowd like this, out for a raucous good time on a Friday night, what you usually get is a lot of talking during the lesser known songs and sing-a-longs on the hits. By 11 pm, when the band takes the stage, many of the patrons are walking a couple step sideways for every one step forward. We got us a power-drinking crowd. But a well behaved one as there was no trouble to be seen...just a lot of happy, pudgy, dancers.

And it's no wonder because Ray Sawyer and his buddies deliver the goods. Everything from the raunciest to the sweetest that the late, great, Shel Silverstein could write up.

The show gets off with a swaying good start as the band opens with Walk Right In, an invitation to all to join in the fun. You Make My Pants Wanna Get Up and Dance ups the ante, escalating the movement from walking to dancing, and the crowd loosens their vocal chords for the first of many singalongs for the evening.

From the back, near the soundboard, the vocal mic seems a little too low in the mix. I recognized the chords to A Couple More Years before I could pick up the lyrics. First highlight of the evening, actually made the trip out here worthwhile all on it's own. This song was the only highlight of Dylan's Hearts of Fire movie in the late '80's. A terrific song, among the best Silverstein left us. Unfortunately this crowd is waiting for only one (1) ballad tonight so the conversation level remains at a steady hum. The song is not served well by the environment.

Unlike Freaker's Ball, which fits in just fine, thx. Dr Hook continues to balance the raucous with the melodic as the band blasts through the party song and counters with the sweet, if creepy, Only Sixteen.

The pattern continues as the salacious Get My Rocks Off is juxtaposed against the angst of When You're Love With A Beautiful Woman.

One more kick at the can with the humourous I Got Stoned And I Missed It (source of Afroman's hit, And Then I Got High) and the sweet thoughts of Sharing the Night Together.

The good Dr and the band then swing into the heart of the set as they punch through
The Millionaire, Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk and Queen of the Silver Dollar. The main set closes with more great comic-music in Everybody's Getting Big But Me and the anti-thesis to that complaint, fan favorite, Cover of the Rolling Stone

Well, that's almost all of what I came for. The night's late, a couple less familiar songs lead the encore and I'm happy to hear the smash hit Sylvia's Mother before I find the door.

Would have liked to have heard Ballad of Lucy Jordan, Makin' Natural and True Love...but that's a testament to how much this band has to bring. It ain't like it was before time ravaged all, and it wasn't just time ravaging the Dr, but it was an entertaining trip down memory lane and a celebration for the survivors.

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