Derry Grehan, Johnnie Dee and Gary Lalonde in action
Thursday July 23rd 2015
Bill from Moose Factory stood at the rear of the Phoenix Concert Theatre dance floor and unashamedly bawled his eyes out.
A business trip to Toronto coincided with Honeymoon Suite’s appearance at the famed mid-town rock venue and he had a special reason for being at the venue.
“The first date my wife and I went on together, 25 years ago, was a Honeymoon Suite concert,” he allowed as he waited for his cab outside the venue after the show. “I lost her to cancer earlier this year. When they played “New Girl Now”, I totally lost it. That was our song; she was my new girl now.”
Classic rock bands have that ability to evoke such emotions from their fans. Whether it’s the memory of a specific show or the symbolism of a particular song, contemporary music is a viable thread in many people’s lives.
Honeymoon Suite’s golden-oldies stacked set triggered an entire wave of nostalgia amongst the healthy turnout on a mid-week evening with lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Johnnie Dee, lead guitarist Derry Grehan, drummer David Betts and bassist Gary Lalonde all survivors from that self-titled debut album released in 1984 and keyboardist Peter Nunn serving as a mainstay since 2002.
The band looked good, sounded good and with such a solid set list could hardly put a foot wrong. Possibly the most obscure song of the night was their first one, “Say You Don’t Know Me”, the first single off their sadly ignored 1991 “Monsters Under The Bed” release. But from that point on it was clear sailing with “Burning In Love”, “Stay In The Light”, “Wave Babies” (which sparked the crowd’s first sing along) and “Feel It Again” all receiving a rapturous reception.
Nunn showed off his considerable keyboard chops with a lengthy solo intro into “What Does It Take” , “Still Loving You” allowed Dee to display his vocal prowess , Lalonde got to flash a bass solo as an intro to “Lookin Out For No.1”, setting up Grehan to unleash a virtuoso guitar instrumental work-out which led into “Bad Attitude” and the inevitable set finale of “New Girl Now”.
Betts got his shot to flash a brief drum solo as the band returned on stage to deliver a one-song finale of “Love Changes Everything”
At one point, Honeymoon Suite did create a tease by launching into the opening chords of a new song only for Dee to inform that “Yes we have a lot of new stuff but we’re not going to lay any of it on you right now”. Which was a shame really because in a set dominated by their first three albums; “Honeymoon Suite (1984)”, “The Big Prize (1986) ” and “Racing After Midnight (1988), Thursday’s concert might have given the band a chance to road test a couple of their new songs.
Still one can imagine that any song list for future concerts will need to be re-jigged as the Suite prepare to release a new album, produced by Sean Kelly, later this year.
Photos by Ted Van Boort.