Academy Theatre in Lindsay, ON
October 11, 2012
Review by: Colton Eddy
Photos by: Jeff Budgell
Between a mission of dancing monkeys and Wayne Newton's wooden bust stood Joel Plaskett on stage — a true Canadian musical icon who represents an integral palette in the sound of our country's modern music.
Before walking into Lindsay's historic Academy Theatre, I had this imaginative ideal of an eye-opening collective experience — one that would resonate with the internal vibrations of this dusty town. I found myself walking into a near-empty theatre with the Emergency and opener Mo Kenney performing a cover of David Bowie's "Five Years". The Emergency is the moniker for Joel Plaskett's trio that features Dave Marsh (of True Love Rules) on drums and Chris Pennell on bass. They looked onto the red-walled theatre, full of rich history, creaky seats and ceiling covered in floral designs. Their musicianship is substantially crafted in their improvisational performances. Their impeccable timing, control and energy brought to mind a high calibre, high-school talent show in their grins that carried an air of adolescence. Their performance, however, far exceeded the capabilities of adolescent rebellion - with a distinct mature and comfortable skill.
A major part of their charm is rooted deep in Plaskett's songwriting. Unlike much of today's music, his lyrics aren't introverted and personal. Instead, they are observational, honest and integral to each song. They recall April Wine, as if it were fronted by Gordon Lightfoot — even alluding to that comparison in a cover of April Wine's "Oowanite" in a medley. Their set also included "If You've Got The Money Honey" by Hank Williams, The Exciters' "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" and Cheap Trick's "Surrender". These guys sound great on record, but their live performance multiplies their musicianship. In comparison, their songs seem only half-finished on record, with their performance ultimately finishing them.
Somehow, the confused audience sat uncomfortably in their seats as the band's energy built. There was little singing along and everyone remained nestled in their cushions. Rather than be bruised by the unamused and empty crowd, the Emergency dabbled in every shade of their East-coast influenced arsenal. Their albums have a range of personalities: friendly pop melodies (Truthfully Truthfully), grittier jams (Ashtray Rock) and that beloved folkier side (La De Da). Their latest album, Scrappy Happiness, works as a compilation of those personalities, like a sample dish of their catalogue. These new tracks perfectly fit with their two-decades of material throughout the set.
The performance's climax arrived when Joel slinged on his acoustic to a flurry of shout-out requests. He acknowledged the audience's excitement by accepting requests, even the obscure, "You Came Along" and opener Mo Kenney joined for a couple of songs by both artists. Joel artfully dodged the "Freebird" request, to which he was reminded about the last time that he performed in Lindsay, down the street at a small cafe: "You're a little like out East, you're always reminded why you were warned about Lindsay." His down-to-earth, level-headed demeanour was best emphasized in his conversation with the crowd. It might have something to do with his humble Halifax upbringing.
Joel is a music fan as much as he is a performer, one that loves sprinkling pop-culture references. Example: "We are the cast of Stripes and I'm your host for the evening, Mr. John Candy."
When he walked out to the dim lights and minimal set-up for their encore, Joel playing a few selections from his iPod for us that featured his narration through Bobby Womack's Point Of No Return before a kareoke-like rendition of his fan-favourite, "Fashionable People". At that very moment, the crowd freed from their seats, as if they finally found a way to unfasten their seatbelts. Finally. One or two audience members even ended up dancing on stage with Joel. This is what I was hoping for.
If you're a music fan, Joel is the kind of artist that you should be listening to and definitely go see live. One of the best opprotunityies is coming up soon and Joel Plaskett's Emergency takes over the Horseshoe Tavern's 65th Anniversary celebrations for a string of dates from December 12 through 16.Setlist
Through, Through, Through
It's Catching On
Deny, Deny, Deny
Heartless, Heartless, Heartless
Powerful Lights (Solo)
You Came Along (Solo)
Deja Vu (with Mo Kenney)
Somewhere Else (with Mo Kenney)
Medley: If You've Got The Money Honey / Oowanite / Do Wah Diddy Diddy
Work Out Fine
Nowhere With You
Surrender (Cheap Trick Cover)
Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'