When I arrived at TD Place Arena just after 6:30pm Saturday night, the seating and floor areas were already almost at full capacity. It was Classic Rock night on the third and final instalment of the Grey Cup Concert Series and legions of long-time Trooper and April Wine fans were out in full force. Waves of nostalgia began to take hold as I stood inside the walls of where I attended some of my first rock concerts. I knew I wasn’t alone, as the buzz of conversations that spoke of the many rock giants who played here at the old Civic Centre decades ago wafted my way. We were here to celebrate the music of these two legendary Canadian bands, which many of us have carried with us in the songbook of our lives.
Trooper were first up and the five band members boarded the stage to a welcoming onslaught of cheering. They immediately launched into their iconic rock anthem “We’re Here For A Good Time,” which set the mood for the rest of the evening. Lead singer Ra McGuire completely relished his time onstage and interacted constantly with the audience. There were the proverbial drum, keyboard, guitar, and bass solos which highlighted the seasoned skills of each of the musicians, and McGuire also showed off his talents with the harp several times. They pulled out all the hits – “3 Dressed Up As A 9,” “General Hand Grenade,” “The Boys In The Bright White Sports Car” and “Raise A Little Hell,” to name a few of the rebel rousers that got folks jumping up from their seats in the stands. I particularly loved some of their slower pieces, namely “Round Round We Go” and the classically written power ballad “Oh Pretty Lady.” They also performed a brand new song “Cold Water,” threw in a great cover of Crowbar’s “Oh What A Feeling,” and returned full circle to “We’re Here For A Good Time,” where the band stopped to let the crowd take away the rest of the chorus. After 42 years, Trooper still know how to entertain a crowd with their fun stage presence, their truly amazing musicianship, and their timeless songs.
That wave of nostalgia began building in strength during the intermission, while the music of The Hip poured in through the speakers. Round two of Classic Rock goodness got underway with April Wine, who jumpstarted the set with guitar heavy “Fast Train.” From there, the dancing ensued with their huge hit, “You Could Have Been A Lady” – another laden in great guitar licks and motoring groove. Myles Goodwyn’s voice remains virtually unchanged as it rang out crisp and clear in “Just Between You And Me,” which also showcased some beautiful vocal harmonies. More classics came with “Weeping Willow,” “Tonite Is A Wonderful Time To Fall In Love” and “Sign Of The Gypsy Queen,” containing one of the best-written guitar solos of all-time, played to perfection by Brian Greenway. The band had the crowd tripping with their rendition of “21st Century Schizoid Man” – a 1969 King Crimson piece that also celebrated the year in which April Wine formed. Later, my favourite of theirs, “Roller,” continued to keep the crowd on its feet with its full throttle energy. The set ended with “Oowatanite” – the very song that introduced me to this band when I was a kid, and would pull me into the world of Rock forever. For me personally, it couldn’t have been a fitter ending to a night filled with musical memorabilia.
The Grey Cup Festival continues until today, Sunday November 26. Visit www.greycupfestival105.ca for information.