Glass Tiger is a pop band in the purest sense of the term. Their songs are short, concise stories of love, lost and regained. Their mission is not to yell in anger, but sing in love, with all the associated metaphors that that can bring to a night of shared spiritual space.
Opening the evening with a smooth “I’m Still Searching”, Alan Frew, singer and emotional touchstone, was all smiles–givin’ the love, with the rest of the band in a confident state of grace; Al Connelly on guitars, Chris McNeill on drums, Wayne Parker on bass, and Sam Reid on keyboards, the group grooved as a unit and not just a string of musicians on the same stage.
Mr. Frew was quick to acknowledge Calgary’s recent flood, telling the audience to give a big round of applause “for yourselves”. The crowd generously followed his command and clapped for the many volunteers and workers who got the city back and functioning in just over a week. Frew then applauded our abilities to experience happiness amid the chaos: “how determined you are to have fun!” He was givin’ the love right out of the chute.
“A Thin Red Line”, one of GT’s more political songs was introduced with an acknowledgement of what the Canadian armed forces and how we should thank them for what they do as humanitarians and not as warriors. One could argue against that statement, but one could not argue with Frew’s conviction or his emotion when delivering the statement. Frew wants the world to be a better place and he makes it so by adding a little music and humour to his small corner of the globe.
Frew introduces “My Song” with a story about the recording of the song in Dublin with Ireland’s rockstars. He’s interrupted by someone in the band and loses his train of thought and ends the story abruptly. Of course he was talking about Ireland’s true rockers The Chieftains and not those other guys that we often hear about.
Deerfoot Casino, Calgary | July 6, 2013
Photography by: Charles Hope
The pop love grows through “Someday”, “You’re What I Look For”, “Love is on the Way”. The spirit moves through the audience and more people get up and start dancing and singing. This benevolent spirit is warm and welcoming.
The band is also taken with the spirit, playing with childlike exuberance, nodding to the crowd, moving in time, and smiling at every opportunity. Though the songs wouldn’t be considered hard rock, the boys exude so much energy that a heavy metaler’s leathers would be turning green with envy. This band is not mechanical or running through the catalog of 100 great rock poses–far from it, they’re moving to the real emotion that they’re feeling, the atmosphere of connection. Glass Tiger is a group of musicians who have moved into that magical space where the players don’t exist, just the band, as one, unified. Their performance is tight, fiery, and solid.
Frew may be the focal point for the audience, but without his band of brothers, he’d just be a great voice calling in the wilderness. With the energy in the room continuing to grow, Frew becomes more animated and the song introductions more elaborate. When referring to 1986, he quips that it was a year of ‘more’, “more patience, more hair, and more eye shadow.” Noting that they had recently played in Edmonton, he scans the audience and croons, “but they’re not nearly as pretty or handsome as you.” The crowd roars. He pauses expertly for effect and then adds, “of course I said the same shtick to them.” He smiles that Cheshire grin, both loving and mischievous and the crowd roars once more, eagerly playing the game with him.
At points during the show Frew takes a smartphone from people in the front row and films the band for a few seconds, including himself, taking social media in a new direction and making that love connection a little bit sweeter. And in return, he works to get the audience more engaged, singing the chorus of “Diamond Sun” and pointing at a sign with the chorus spelled out “love gives life and life is love”. The sign held by a group of women wearing clip-on tiger ears; the tigresses of love one could say. He takes pictures of the audience and encourages everyone to send messages via Twitter to him and the band. He wants that connection.
The night is full of gorgeous pop songs, love songs, and smiles, with the culmination of GT’s biggest hit, “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone)”, which included a long sing-a-long with the audience who couldn’t quite get the half-beat pause during the chorus, their emotion blowing through the phrase like a stampeding bull. “You can’t get that pause Calgary… you never let us down,” laments Frew.
Obviously, we’ve never been able to sing that part and get the pause just right, but we’ll keep trying. And as long as Frew and company continue to perform, we’ll return to try it one more time. Or perhaps, we’re returning that Cheshire smile to GT, missing the beat on purpose with our tongues in cheek, giving back a little playful love.