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Blue Rodeo. Photo by Heather Pollock.

Blue Rodeo – Ottawa’s “Valentime’s” Day tradition

By Terry Steeves on January 19, 2016

We are giving away two tickets to see Blue Rodeo on February 14 – read below for more info!

Canada’s beloved Blue Rodeo are back on the road with a brief 25-date winter tour, criss-crossing the country from coast-to-coast in support of their latest effort, Blue Rodeo – Live at Massey Hall, which was released Oct. 16, 2015 under Warner Music Canada. The album highlights their Feb. 2014 show during the band’s, In Our Nature (2013) tour, and is their second live recording captured inside Toronto’s landmark venue. The album, available digitally, on CD, and double heavyweight vinyl, features 14 tracks plucked from their vast repertoire of timeless classics as well as a handful of newer material from their latest full length studio album, In Our Nature. As what has become somewhat of a Valentine’s Day tradition, their now 7-piece line-up will perform once again in Ottawa, this time at the Canadian Tire Centre on Feb. 14th. I had a chance to chat with Jim Cuddy about how the tradition came to be.

“That whole thing started through our agent, Kay White, and she always called it, “Valentime’s Day”, which we thought was cute. “You need to play Valentime’s Day”, she would say, and we thought Ottawa was the perfect place. What started as a bit of a novel idea turned into such a nice tradition. I think we’ve done this six times now.”

The tour also features supporting artists, Terra Lightfoot, who will cover the western part of the trek, including the Ottawa show and The Strumbellas, who will join them for dates in the eastern leg of the country. After nearly 30 years, the touring life has never stopped being an adventure for Blue Rodeo. There is something special about attending one of their shows. More than the performance and the wonderful familiarity of their music, it’s a warm blanket of communion that surrounds both the band and the audience together.

“The most enjoyable thing about touring is performing…it’s very inspiring. It’s nice to lead a vagabond life for a little while, to not be settled somewhere, to have your stuff on a bus, stay at different hotels, play at different venues and see a day of winter here and there. But I think it’s the camaraderie and the actual playing together that’s the most enlightening. It’s absolutely still an adventure. The condition changes slightly every time – people getting older, everybody’s more fragile, the circumstances of their lives are interesting. I really feel like most nights we’re playing to a community of people that have grown up together…I never get tired of it. It’s like when I’ve gone to see a performer like Springsteen for the umpteenth time, I’ve often heard him say, “I wanna see that there’s some communion going on!” It’s between the artists, the audience, and the songs…there’s another level of meaning there.”

The band’s expansion from the original five, to include Mike Boguski (2008) and Colin Cripps (2013) have given their live shows a fuller, richer sound. Originally, Cripps was brought in to assume electric guitar duties when Greg Keelor had not been able to play due to hearing frequency issues, but his addition quickly worked out to become more than that:

“He carries most of the electric guitar work which takes the load off Greg, although he has been playing some electric guitar again. But what Colin has done is he’s added all of the things we’ve done on record – the singing, the playing. He’s just been such a wonderful addition and we feel there’s no gulf between how we sound now, and how we sound on the record. And Michael, our keyboard player, who is also relatively new, has been amazing to have onboard. We’re very proud to now have this very high level of musicianship in the band.”

After nearly 30 years from Blue Rodeo’s debut album, Outskirts (1987), the band has gone on to accumulate many awards and accolades, including 11 Junos, and most recently, both founding members, Cuddy and Keelor were made Officers of the Order Of Canada in Nov. 2015.

“As much as these awards have been deeply satisfying, the day after receiving them, we just come back to being the band that we are. We’ve never felt we needed to accomplish something when we started out other than the task at hand of writing good songs, recording them, and performing them as best as we can.”

And as far as advice for budding musicians, Cuddy had this to say:

BR_MH_CoverLarge“This was something Greg was really adamant about. He’d say, “Play your own songs. The world doesn’t need another one of whoever it is you admire…it needs YOU. Be yourself, for better – for worse.”

CONTEST: We are happy to have one pair of tickets to give away to the upcoming Blue Rodeo concert. To enter, just send us an email with the subject header, “Blue Rodeo” to apartment613@gmail.com by Sunday, February 7, 2016. We’ll pick a winner by random draw.

Blue Rodeo play at the Canadian Tire Centre on Valentine’s Day, Feb 14, 2016. Tickets are from $32 – &85.50 and can be purchased online. Live at Massey Hall is available now.