It's been a long hot summer and we're getting an instant replay in Southern Ontario. Sunny and 24 degrees all week. Great time to be on the road taking in the fall colours and a home-grown talent.
Tuesday night in Kitchener finds us hooking up with long-time friends, Dylan-travelling companions and fellow music fans, Michey and Rick, who live close by. Wings and beer before we make our way to the cozy Jazz Room inside the historic Huether Hotel. They've done a good job of filling the place, it's packed to capacity.
CR's set has a few new songs and some familiar staples. The venue provides a Grand Piano which entices CR to spend quite a bit of time on the stool. We get a few harp-beat-box tunes (Boxer Who Just Returned from London, Grey Armpit of Rock n Roll and Springsteen's 57 Channels and Nothing On.) One on banjo Hollywood Movie Blues. Piano ballads abide with the wonderful Troubled Youth, Just A Hobo and the new Israel's Saviour and Queen. Dinner For One never fails to get the house laughing out loud, even if some are a little crimson faced. Bus to Baton Rouge, a Lucinda Williams cover, gives him room to roam as he combines his knack for pounding out a few chords with his penchant for delivering a hip-hop ballad. A couple other spoken word pieces; the always pleasing homage to the last great politician this nation has seen, PET, and his advice to my daughter on her miscellaneous birthday, Dollhouse and Pocket Knife.
Now that is a night out.
Home and in bed at 1 pm last night, off to work for the day and back on the highway at 5pm. Heading a little farther west, the Evergreen Terrace Cafe in Stratford ON.
Stratford is 40 minutes down a dark road away from Kitchener. Town closes at 5:30 pm on weekdays and the business square is taken over by skate-boarders. Not a lot of opportunity for walk-ins so we have a sparse, but loyal and appreciative crowd tonight. Big thanks to Carol Mcleod and the St Mary's Storytelling Inc for putting this show on tongiht. You can never tell what kind of crowd you will entice, there are so many factors involved. Carol was a gracious host and while the numbers weren't high, the quality of attendees was. The fortunate who gathered close to the stage for CR's set get treated to a house-concert and a bunch of big songs; Dylan's Things Have Changed, Waits' Big In Japan and Birdcage among them. CR is showcasing a waltz, Israel's Saviour and Queen, hoping to include it on an upcoming album with the banjo song, Hollywood Movie Blues. Another new song tonight, that may or may not, be called I'm No Genius. We get a reprise of 57 Channels and Nothing On as CR seems to be taking a liking to the extended harmonica blow-out in the middle of this one. He delivers an epic spoken word piece, Commercial and First, and doesn't miss a beat. We get Purple Cotton Dress in the mix and he closes with Motel: 50 Miles Out of Town...a song that sounds different every time I hear it.
After a day off to successfuly make sure the Conservative Party doesn't get a taste of power in Ontario it's back on the road early Friday morning, towards our nation's Capitol. We head north to Peterborough, joining Highway 7 Eastbound, the scenic route. It's taking us through CR's old stomping grounds in and about Lanark County. Time enough to stop for some fall photos. Except we didn't come across too many accessible opportunities. We did pass some wild turkeys on the side of the road. I stopped to shoo them back into the woods. Like, don't they know what weekend this is?
Some people bring their friends to the shows when CR comes to their city. We try to go to our friends cities and bring them to CR shows. In Ottawa tonight we have our children-from-another-mother, Ryan and Teri. They talked Ryan's sister, Janine, and her boyfriend, Aaron, into joining us for the set.
This show was organized by Noah and Margaret Sullivan and they did a great job. The sound was superb, the venue a cozy as you can get. Bit of a churchy feel to it but we are praying at the altar of independent music. Opening tonight is Lindsay Ferguson. Only a few songs but an impressive set. She opens with a French Language tune and closes with a Celtic acapella ballad. I'm a French Canadian sitting here with my Irish Canadian wife. It's like we called the tunes.
Stellar performance from CR tonight. Opening with The Boxer Who Just Returned From London, he's momentarily distracted by the return of 15 patrons who were outside having a smoke break between sets but found themselves enjoying the lovely fall weather a little too long. By his own admission he had trouble focussing during Israel's Saviour and Queen because his keyboard stand was a little unstable. That was not evident from the audience as he delivers a superb performance. Sometimes he's an unconscious talent. It's during a slightly self-indulgent, in a good rock n roll way, harp solo in 57 Channels and Nothing On that he finds his mojo. He gets control of his brain-waves, pushes aside the distractions and tells himself to just pitch to the audience. So we get some curves, a change-up, a slider and a screaming fast ball down the center of the plate. (Hey, it is October after all.)
So far we've had a spoken work piece, a piano ballad and a harp-laden, beat-box cover of Springsteen. It's only a one-man show how many more incarnations can there be? Well, one more, banjo-strummin', talkin' bluegrass, CR. Hollywood Movie Blues is a laugh-riot. Usually it's delivered unplugged, while walking in front of the audience, and tonight is no different. Doesn't make recording any easier but it's an important element of the set and never fails to hypnotize and engage the crowd.
Next up a huge spoken-word piece, The Wind Is A Speed Reader followed by Neil Young's The Campaigner and Hendrix' Voodoo Child complete with feedback solo's. Both Nixon (from The Campaigner chorus) and Hendrix will make another appearance in this show.
CR sits down at the piano for (Blame It On My) Troubled Youth before standing to deliver the Hendrix/Dylan tome, The Grey Armpit Area of Rock n Roll to close the set.
In the encore we get a song about the Montreal Airport, PET and a new ballad about the ebb and flow of success and failure on the road, One of Those Faces.
Highlight of the night was the intro to Folk Singer, and the performance, as CR shares a story about the pitfalls of impromptu stage patter.
So that brings to a close this week's adventures with CR. See you at the Cameron on the 13th, you can find him at The Pilot on the 14th, in Niagara Falls at the OCFF and on Sunday, in St Catharines, at a yet to be identified venue.
Here are the set lists, with a few select samples.
t01 The Boxer Who Just Returned From London
t02 Israel's Saviour and Queen (for CR STE000 vg)
t03 57 Channels and Nothing On
t04 don't talk talk
t05 Troubled Youth
t06 Hollywood Movie Blues
t09 Dinner For One
t11 Grey Armpit of Rock N Roll
t12 encore break
t13 Just A Hobo
t14 Bus To Baton Rouge
t15 talk 2nd encore
t16 Dollhouse and Pocket Knife
t02 57 Channels and Nothings On (Springsteen)
t03 Israel's Saviour and Queen
t04 Purple Cotton Dress
t05 Hollywood Movie Blues
t06 Things Have Changed
t07 Commercial and First
t08 I'm No Genius
t09 encore break
t10 Big In Japan
t13 Motel Room 50 Miles Out of Town
Old Town Hall
t01 The Boxer Who Just Returned From London
t02 Israel's Saviour and Queen
t03 57 Channels and Nothing On
t04 Hollywood Movie Blues
t05 The Wind Is A Speed Reader
t06 The Campaigner
t07 Voodoo Child
t08 Troubled Youth
t09 Grey Armpit of Rock N Roll
t12 Folk Singer
t14 One of Those Faces
Special Track, Lindsay Ferguson's O'Donnell Oge , a lovely Irish ballad.