Clad in black t-shirts and black jeans, the wily veterans walked gracefully through the audience and took the stage with energy and smiles. Led by original member Bill Henderson on guitar and lead vocals, with younger brother Ed Henderson on guitar and backing vocals, and the solid bottom end duo of Doug Edwards on bass and Jerry Adolphe on drums, Chilliwack quickly launched a musical journey that took the audience from 60s psychedelia through to 90s pop. With determined confidence and a casual ‘this is what we are’ attitude, the band played through a list of hits, reworked and reconsidered, that were full of humour while barely containing their sense of wonder.
The essence of a Chilliwack show is the passion inherent in the music. Each song encapsulates a sweeter time when music had the transformative power to heal and open the doors of possibility-far from the overly commercialized and commoditized music of today. Huxley needed LSD to open the doors of perception while Henderson and company need only the music.
Century Casino, Calgary | December 29, 2012
Photography by: Charles Hope
Opening with an extended guitar mash of sitar-like chords reminiscent of a 60s happening that built momentum to flow like a raging river into “Lonesome Mary” with vocals clear and precise that lead one to believe that the years since 1971, when it was first released, had simply not existed. Henderson sounded like he was singing the song for the first time, stripping away the 40 plus years, and taking himself through an adventure of the mind and soul. Though he has probably song the song thousands of times, his emotion for the song remained honest and true.
Jumping around the Chilliwack continuum with “Whatcha Gonna Do” and “California Girl” as two examples, illustrated the amazing strength of the songs-their clarity of thought and subtle dynamics, and their powered precision. These songs may be characterized as pop or pop-rock, depending on your definitions, but they are truly gems of dynamic lyricism. The band’s ability to blend crisp melody with punchy rhythms-powerful and intense one moment, subtle and sublime the next, is a skill that many a younger band should cultivate.
The interplay of guitar and voice continued through the night. Complex solos danced around playful lyrics in “Baby Blue”, “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)”, and “I Believe” building textures of sound that never threatened to lose their playfulness. A serious moment did occur with “Patent on the Wind”, a protest song based on the moral battle between Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser and the Monsanto corporation, a true David and Goliath story that again emphasized the passion within Chilliwack and the fact that playful melodies and hooks always sit on serious bedrock. This playful/serious juxtaposition was displayed during Henderson’s introduction of “Ground Hog”, stating that it had achieved #1 on the charts in Little Rock, Arkansas soon after its release, and that he wondered what affect it may have had on the formative thoughts of one Bill Clinton.
Henderson noted that he was a Beatnik and arrived on the scene too early to be a hippy, but he appreciated the ‘happenings’ that were often personified by the hippies as he swooned into a near-meaningless chant, gathered energy in a Native American tribal dance rhythm, and then flowed into the opening chords of “Seventeenth Summer”. The band continued in this mode as they moved into “Crazy Talk”, urging the audience to sing whatever came to mind during the choruses.
Throughout the night each band member was showcased, allowing each to display their significant mastery of their instruments. These men aren’t showy players, but thoughtful artisans with immediate command of their skills, calling up the necessary actions to lock onto melodies, punctuate with power, and draw out the hidden desires of the songs.
The show ended with Henderson’s ode to Chilliwack audiences “Fly At Night”, which he dedicated as a love song. This brought a few to their feet, but mostly the audience remained in their seats and softly swayed to the happening that is, and always will be, Chilliwack.