Ottawa’s rock ‘n roll cowboys, The Cooper Brothers, treated their fans to an exceptional and extra special performance at Centrepointe Theatre Friday night, which was jam-packed with special guests in celebration of their newest album release, “Radio Silence”. In addition to the band’s seven members, a four-piece horn section added a colourful boost to the first half of the show…the same four who also appear on the new CD.
Also providing a dynamic zest to all the material were powerhouse backing vocalists, DeeDee Butters and Sherri Harding. Special guests included Lee Harvey Osmond (Tom Wilson), Sass Jordan, Kellylee Evans, Jordan King, and fiddle player extraordinaire, Ray Legere.
Show opener, Hamilton’s Lee Harvey Osmond, aka Tom Wilson, quickly won over the audience with an impressive array of unplugged and a cappella numbers that showcased a variety of his past and present solo and collaborative efforts.
Beginning with the chugging vibe of “40 Tons” (Blackie and the Rodeo Kings) into newer territory from his latest album, “Beautiful Scars” (2015), he was accompanied by his son, Thompson Wilson (Harlan Pepper) on vocals, shaker, and harmonica. Tom Wilson‘s colourful wit had the audience in stitches, especially during his son‘s introduction, “It’s hard to find good band members because they’re all f*k-ups…”, he quipped, “…so I found this fantastic woman and we made one.”
Tunes from the current CD included “Come and Go”, and “Blue Moon Drive”, which showcased some great finger picking by dad. During Junkhouse mega hit, “Shine”, Thompson’s voice did just that as he took over the reins on lead vocals. But what impressed me the most was the magical blend of vocal timbres between Tom’s thick, bassy tones, and his son’s brighter pitch. The two finished off the first segment of the night completely a cappella. The touching image of a father’s arm wrapped around his son’s shoulders as the two raised their howling voices to the crowd resulted in the first standing ovation of the night.
The Cooper Brothers boarded the stage to immediate welcoming cheers and proceeded to take the audience on a musical journey through the band’s 43-year history, including a healthy handful of songs from their new album, “Radio Silence”. From the first note played, those iconic lush instrumentals and multi-vocal harmonies resounded inside the pristine acoustics of the theatre with one of their classics, “I’ll Know Her When I See Her” (Pitfalls Of The Ballroom – 1979). Brian Cooper’s smooth vocals came out loud, clear, and virtually unchanged…it was as if the needle had dropped on the album itself.
A selection of new material followed with an added big band kick from the horn section. “(There’s Gonna Be) Rain”, was a gorgeous flowing ballad that featured the smoky lead vocals of multi-instrumentalist, Jeff Rogers, as well as the amazing fiddle skills of special guest, Ray Legere. “Smuggler’s Moon” displayed a smooth jazz freshness, spaced out nicely with instrumental textures and more of those great horns. The title track, “Radio Silence”, grabbed me with its great rocking beat, more of Rogers’ bluesy vocal style, and some nice guitar leads by Darwin Demers. More highlights came with an early country rock favourite, “Rock And Roll Cowboys” (The Cooper Brothers – 1978), with the song’s iconic banjo parts played flawlessly by pedal steel band member, John Steele.
As has been the custom during The Cooper Brothers shows of late, a heartfelt tribute to the band’s co-founder, Terry King, came with first some touching words from Dick Cooper, followed by a performance of “’62 Fairlane” (In From The Cold – 2010), which he wrote in his memory. Terry’s nephew, Jordan King, an aspiring singer/songwriter in his own right, was fittingly chosen to sing the song, and when he made his way onto the stage wearing his Uncle’s favourite custom-made shirt he used to perform in, both Dick and Brian’s mouths nearly fell to the floor in surprise.
Canada’s rock diva, Sass Jordan, joined the others on stage to lend her vocals to the band’s catchy southern rock tune, “Paradise Pie” (In From The Cold). They returned the favour by backing her on one of her hits, “Make You A Believer” (Racine – 1992). She dug her teeth into the song’s no-nonsense rock muscle, and exuded her always present dynamic stage presence and killer pipes. Backing vocalists, Butters and Harding, kicked the song’s power up a notch with their spot-on impressive range and ability.
Next guest, Canadian jazz and soul artist, Kellylee Evans, wrapped her gorgeous smooth vocals around another Coops classic, “Show Some Emotion” (Pitfalls Of The Ballroom). The song’s warm tone and seventies contemporary vibe was the perfect compliment to Evans’ soulful voice, which at times made me think of Diana Ross. Rogers’ great sax leads also contributed to the song’s cool jazz flavour, which illustrated the band’s diversity of musical colours.
The set tied up nicely with more new songs from the album. “You Don’t Have To Worry About Me”, featured a quick-paced latin/jazz flair, more great sax licks by Rogers, and a short tongue-in-cheek rap segment by Dick Cooper. “Getting Away With It”, brought things to a temporary close with its heavier guitar-laced southern rock energy, highlighted with some great pedal steel by Steele, rock solid rhythms by drummer Rob Holtz, and a stand-out honky tonk organ outro by Bimm that revved up the crowd.
All special guests returned to the stage for the night’s anticipated encore, “The Dream Never Dies” (The Cooper Brothers). It’s nostalgic sentiment washed over the crowd, whose voices joined in on the song’s uplifting chorus. The final song, “Gunshy” (In From The Cold) also rocked with guitar energy, and featured Jordan King one more time on backing vocals.
Friday night’s show reflected all that The Cooper Brothers have come from, and have brought with it an amplified boost of diversity and new experimentation in their music. Their new album, “Radio Silence”, shines with example, along with their trademark of great songwriting, as the band continues on their exciting evolution.
Photo’s – Terry Steeves.
For more info on The Cooper Brothers and to purchase their new album, “Radio Silence”, please visit www.thecooperbrothers.com.