Those fortunate to be backstage at the first annual URG Festival Saturday at the Ancaster Fairgrounds near Hamilton Ontario must have felt they had travelled back in some 1980’s musical time capsule.
There, milling about amidst a semi circle of trailers was a mix and match of Platinum Blondes, Honeymoon Suites, Helix, Saga and The Kings all assembled to perform at a concert organized by Unique Restaurant Group entrepreneur Graeme Tosh to celebrate his 50th birthday.
Saga lead vocalist Michael Sadler chatted about how this was Saga’s final Canadian tour after some 40 years in the spotlight, Helix frontman Brian Vollmer announced is band had just recorded two new songs and he had a solo record set to drop in the Fall. There was Honeymoon Suite keyboardist Peter Nunn chatting with his former Kings’ bandmates Dave Diamond and Mr Zero who were both coming of health scares and Platinum Blonde guitarist Sergio Galli and drummer Dan Todd showing the band hadn’t lost their penchant for s stylish dress sense with Todd decked out in a silver lame jacket and bands while Galli dazzled with a sparkling red jacket.
On stage, each band zipped through 45-minute sets (with the exception of the Platinum Blonde’s one-hour concert closer) with local bands The McFlys and Freedom Train filling in gaps from a side stage with set lists of full of Eighties’ classics.
With such short time slots, the bands basically focused on their hits. The Kings’ fronted by Diamond and Mr Zero, rolled back the years with tracks like “Parting Of The Ways”, “Unstoppable” and “Listen And Learn” before ending with their classic “This Beat Goes On/Switchin To Glide”.
A last minute substitute for Vancouver’s Doug And The Slugs (lead singer Ted Okos underwent emergency surgery), Helix continued to show why they are one of Canada’s top live acts with a dynamic set list of tracks like “Rock You”, “Dirty Dog”, “Wild In The Streets” and “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin” while debuting a new track “The Devil Is Having A Party”.
Saga really didn’t have time to fully show their chops but a set list which featured “On The Loose”, “Wind Him Up”, “The Flyer”, keyboardist Jim Gilmour singing “Scratching The Surface” and the closer “Careful Where You Step” projected their majestic sound and Sadler’s vocals are still spot on after 40 years.
Another timeless band is Honeymoon Suite whose tight set featured classics like “Burning In Love”, “Stay In The Light”, “Wave Babies”, “Feel It Again”, a tasty Peter Nunn keyboard intro into “What Does It Take” but also mixed in more obscure tracks like “Wounded” and “Say You Don’t Know Me” before concluding with “New Girl Now”.
It was left to the Blondes’ Mark Holmes, Sergio Galli and Dan Todd to wrap up the night and they did so in style combining classics like “Hungry Eyes”, “Situation Critical”, “Crying Over You”, “Not In Love” and “It Doesn’t Really Matter” along with a tasty cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” as a tribute to the late Chris Cornell.
When asked if Tosh had intentions of making this URG Festival an annual event, his wife Sharon cracked “I’ll divorce him if he does”, but, based on the success of this inaugural event, there could be the incentive to make this an annual event.