Corey Hart cut a visibly emotional figure as he stood on the Toronto Budweiser Stage, June 14th, a single spotlight detecting tears welling in his eyes. He and his proficient eight-piece band had just completed their final encore, “Never Surrender”, leaving him alone to receive thunderous plaudits from a near sell-out (14,000) audience.
“You know there was a time not long ago when I seriously wondered if anyone was ever interested in seeing me perform again,” Hart spoke, fighting back his emotions. “Thank you for continuing to believe in me.”
With that, Hart launched into an acapella reprise of “Never Surrender”, the crowd on their collective feet, singing in unison. It was a prophetic ending to a stunning performance in which Hart showed he had lost none of his skills in connecting with his audience, even though it been some 22 years since his last national tour.
But now Corey Hart is back in the limelight. Reaching 16 Canadian cities in support of his newly-released ‘Dreaming Time Again’ EP with former Capitol labelmates Glass Tiger tagging along as the opening act, Hart proved to be the consummate entertainer, totally involving his (mainly female) audience in many aspects of the show.
After a rousing opener which featured the title track off his new EP, “Bang (Starting Over)” and “Boy In A Box”, Hart told the story of a female Saskatoon fan who had always rated him as her No.1 idol but had admitted to him, his lack of productivity and touring had pushed him to No 2 in her rating behind Blue Rodeo’s – Jim Cuddy. So Hart decided to record a new song “First Rodeo” off the new EP with Cuddy, brought him on stage to duet the song with him and had his female fan come on stage to be serenaded by the duo.
The recent Juno Hall Of Fame recipient then sang “Everything In My Heart” to a backdrop montage of fan photographs.
Addressing fans way back on the grass, Hart, looking fit and trim, told of his early experiences attending major area concerts where there didn’t seem to be much communication between the artist and their audience. So he set up a mini stage in the middle of section 100 where he and band members performed a brief acoustic set amongst the audience, launched by a cover of The Police’s “Message In A Bottle” which segued into “She’s Got The Radio” before adding a version of The Beatles’ “Let It Be”. Hart would later physically connect with those in the back section with a romp around the amphitheatre as he sang “Tell Me”.
Hart’s set was also about family. He had his wife Julie Masse-Hart performing as one of his three back-up singers, he ran a video clip of him discussing his life philosophies and virtues with his son Rain conducted in flawless Spanish and then, during the acoustic set, he mentioned his tough upbringing, his parent’s divorce, the help he received from older sister Donna and how, as his mother Mina was on her deathbed she asked him to comfort Donna by singing “I Am By Your Side”. Cue Donna to arrive and be serenaded by her younger brother.
He even dealt with a minor soundboard glitch by triggering a sing-along of “We Are The Champions” in honour of the Toronto Raptor’s NBA championship win, and when the delay persisted, the crowd took over themselves with chants of “Let’s Go Raptors” until the problem was quickly resolved. Hart managed to balance his set with many of his hit singles; “Eurasian Eyes” and “A Little Love” being particular standouts, before concluding his regular set with a cover of Robert Palmer’s “Bad Case Of Loving You”.
Then out came the sunglasses as Hart & Co launched into a three-song encore of “Sunglasses At Night”, Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” and concluding with “Never Surrender” with the entire audience enlisted as his back-up singers. A truly phenomenal performance by someone who has obviously never lost that star quality. Any doubts Hart may have had about making a comeback must surely have been laid to rest.
The whole night was a treat for heritage music fans with England’s A Flock Of Seagulls” bringing back memories with a brief set which included “Space Age Love Song”, “Wishing (I Had A Photograph) and the band’s mega-hit; “I Ran”. Keyboardist/lead vocalist Mike Score may have lost his ubiquitous hairdo but he can still deliver the hits and it was great to see The Spoons’ Gord Deppe performing as lead guitarist with the band.
Official support band, Newmarket’s Glass Tiger had their own new record to promote (33) which reflected how many years’ since their first album `A Thin Red Line’ had been released and lead singer Alan Frew kept their nine-song mini set tight, delivering all their key hits including launching their performance with “Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone”, “My Song”, “I’m Still Standing”, “Thin Red Line” “My Town”, “Diamond Sun” and “Someday”.
Like Hart, Frew has the ability to engage his hometown audience and he turned the Tigers’ set into a glorified kitchen party, drawing a singalong from his audience on “Diamond Sun”. He also endeared himself to the crowd by saying “Toronto, home of the NBA champion Toronto Raptors” which earned a pre-requisite cheer and even guitarist Tommy Lewis (filling in for Wayne Parker) wore a Raptor’s shirt.
The Tigers debuted only two new songs off the new album, a raucous “This Is London”, reminiscent of early Rod Stewart & The Faces before closing with a poignant “This Is Your Life” which held a special meaning for Frew who miraculously recovered from major neck surgery to complete the tour after almost suffering a near-fatal stroke in 2015.