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ARE WE NOT POP? – HEDLEY

ARE WE NOT POP? – HEDLEY

 

Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary – May 13, 2016

The evening began with a pastiche of images and scenes displayed on the seven screens surrounding the stage accompanied by a scattering of television network sounds. These images blended into the sitcom spoof “The Hedleys” complete with credits and a ‘filmed live in Calgary’ text shown over an idyllic suburban neighbourhood scene. The short scenarios showed the typical dysfunctional television family struggling for normalcy in the chaos of modern life. The soundtrack to the sitcom was “Hello” which worked as a fitting and appropriate segue for the concert.

Immediately following the video, Jacob Hoggard, lead vocals and occasional guitar and piano, exploded on to the stage with ecstatic joy, leaping and prancing like an antelope on the first day of spring. Dave Rosin, guitar, and Tommy Mac, bass, rounded out the moving members with an unnamed drummer replacing Chris Crippin, who was not present due to his “not feeling well.”

 

 

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Though the replacement drummer appeared tentative many times, the songs flowed in rapid-fire succession: “Lost in Translation,” “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” “One Life” “Very First Time” and then a medley before a brief intermission and outfit change. The songs were short and precise though not very clean: Rosin’s guitar was lost in the mix, overrun by thumping bass lines and booming drums, and the occasional synth back track. It was difficult to discern any modulation and melody lines were mashed into a dance-track series of thumps and wallops. This lack of audio integrity didn’t deter the audience from enjoying every moment. This was a concert for the converted who knew the music from the inside out, not for the dabblers. And in appreciation the band worked to acknowledge every audience member visible from the edges of the stage. They made full use of the stage territory, running back and forth from side to side, then back to mic stands, then repeating, all in the span of a single song

The audience, those members of the converted, danced when directed, sang when commanded, cheered when expected, all to the multiple cries of “Calgareeeeee!” It’s always nice when a singer acknowledges a city, remembering for a short time where they actually are, but the constant repetition sounded coy and insincere, except when Hoggard referenced all the Calgary venues they’ve played over the years-a simple connection to the long term fans which was later broken when he invited a woman on stage and then proceeded to go through the text messages on her phone. While joking with her he phoned a man on the list, presumably her father while holding a mic to the phone so that we heard the bewildered fellow attempting to make sense of the situation.
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When does a concert change into a reality show? Where does the music reside during these antics? The use of spectacle is fine, but the music needs to remain front and center. Stories and anecdotes about a song or experience are one thing, but openly teasing someone for no other reason than it can be done, detracts from the performance, though the woman in question probably didn’t care and will remember this ‘special’ moment for a long time.

More songs followed: “Can’t Slow Down” “Gunnin’,” “Heaven In Our Headlights,” “Villain,” and the popular “Cha-Ching” to name a few. Hoggard, Rosin, and Mac performed a merry dance across the vast stage and kept the pulse and rhythms hard, leaving musical dynamics behind. This was a dance party more than a concert, a chance for the under 16-set to experience a rave. A time for middle-aged parents in tow to feel connection with their children, if not the music. “Crazy For You” and “Anything” ended the night and the dancing never stopped.

As noted, the opening sitcom video was played for humour, but it ironically foreshadowed the band’s dynamics for the show: four ‘family’ members attempting to coalesce into a cohesive unit, but not quite achieving their goal with each trying to get the most attention, each trying to be the hit of the night. Hedley’s energy and pop-infused songs were a pleasure to the thousands of young women in the audience, but this writer found the show lacking real spark, missing that intangible ingredient that is difficult to define, but obvious when it is not present.

Jumping and cavorting like excited puppies is great when the members play as one, but tonight Hedley were distant and disconnected from each other. They appeared to focus more on the audience than the music and each other. They didn’t smile or nod as they moved around each other on stage, and much like commuters on a train platform, avoided eye contact and stepped away from potential touching…and that’s just not pop.

 

Brian Stanko

w/ photos by Charles Hope

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