Deerfoot Casino, Calgary – April 10, 2015
How many shows has Randy Bachman performed through his numerous guises with groups The Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Bravebelt, Bachman Cummings, Bachman & Turner, and his latest enterprise Bachman? Thousands, and he probably has a story for every show.
The band Bachman is a return to his beginnings, to the sound of guitars, drums, and bass; edgy, brash, and sometimes harsh, but always honest. Bachman’s show tonight was exactly that, big, bold, and rocking it for real.
Backed by Anna Ruddick on bass and backing vocals, Dale Ann Brendon on drums, and Brent Howard Knudsen on guitar and vocals, Bachman ignited with “Heavy Blues,” the title track from the newly released CD. Followed closely with “Shakin’ All Over,” Bachman quickly defined the approach to constructing the set list for this show: link new material with the old, which is similar in tempo and feel, focusing on energy and recreating the sound of 60s blues rock. The audience was appreciative of the new material, but it was clear by their clapping and whistling that they were there to hear the old songs. [quote]Take care of yourself and then you’ll be able to help someone else[/quote]
The band was tight with Ruddick and Brendon laying down a solid and heavy bottom end for Bachman’s extended soloing. Bachman’s voice was a little weaker, but still full of fire, and when needed, Knudsen sang lead to give Bachman’s voice a rest, allowing him to focus on his playing. “Roll On Down The Highway” had Knudsen singing and Bachman providing an extended solo reminiscent of Clapton with a little more edge.
Bachman’s between song banter was curious in so much that he often said very little in the way of audience encouragement or comment. Offering a brief “thanks for clapping your hands” at the end of a song, but the complete opposite when introducing a song where he would launch into a long story as to the idea that sparked the germ of the song, the lick or the verbal phrase that stuck in his mind and grew into the song, or how it was constructed with the input of others. The perpetual namedropping during these stories would have been irritating from someone of lesser distinction, but with Bachman, you know that he met these people over the years. Yes, he may be exaggerating some of the details, but not the context. A man who played all the iconic venues around the world during the heyday of the British Invasion can’t be faulted for a few tall tales.
Bachman dedicated “Blue Collar” to the “guys that keep the world rolling,” knowing precisely the membership of his fan base and the importance of fostering that loyalty. His solo during the song included harmonics, which are normally reserved for metal or prog guitarists, but in this context worked superbly, proving that he still has the chops to excite and captivate.
“Hey You” had Ruddick providing backup vocals, giving the song a little more treble though her bass was most definitely bottom end. With a long introduction and effective use of his wah-wah pedal Bachman lead Bachman into “American Woman.” On a side note, the day before the show, Bachman had presented the National Music Centre (nmc.ca) with the ’59 Les Paul Special used to write the song and other Guess Who songs in the early years; Bachman decided it should reside in Canada for the foreseeable future.[youtube width=”600″ height=”400″ video_id=”xa_pOrgh47c”]
Keeping with the hits, the band slid into “Lookin’ Out For #1” which Bachman introduced as “and intimate moment” and a response to airline safety pamphlets that note putting the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others. “Take care of yourself and then you’ll be able to help someone else,” he philosophized. The jazzy tune was a perfect vehicle to illustrate his strumming ability. Though he wears a fingerless compression glove on his right hand, he can still power those chords when the need arises.
His enthusiasm for his songs and his accomplishments was evident with his intro to “No Time.” His comment: “A hard rocking song that proved [The Guess Who] could make it work,” a response to the critics who said at the time that Canadian bands couldn’t rock. He also noted how the riff was a takeoff of Stephen Stills’ riff in the song “Hung Upside Down.”
“Let It Ride” was paired with “Confessin’ To The Devil,” but before playing these songs Bachman expanded on his theory of musicianship. He feels that guitarists, though this would apply to all instrumentalists, define their style by emulating their heroes, for true style is derived from imitation. In acknowledgement of this he yells, “I wanna be Jeff Beck.” Devil included a nod to Led Zeppelin and perhaps The Yardbirds in the process of spiritual emulation.
Ending the show with “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” brings the audience to their feet. “You may have come to hear this song,” Bachman comments before the first few bars.
“Takin’ Care Of Business,” the encore song, should be “put on the exam for Americans trying to be Canadians,” Bachman opines, noting that the song could serve as a second national anthem.
Though by clock time, the show was on the shorter side, it more than fulfilled our expectations, providing a glimpse of a nearly forgotten era when music mattered and had an amazing affect, and blues-based rock could shake the foundation of your soul and open you up to a world of possibilities. May Bachman keep rolling down the highways and rockin’ our souls for a long time to come.
Written Brian Stanko