Ottawa’s east end was treated to a heavy dose of CanCon on Friday night, as The Northern Pikes and The Pursuit of Happiness brought their Northern Happiness Tour to the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans. The string of dates on this tour has seen the bands acting as double headliners, each playing a full set of hits spanning the decades of their respective careers. As a kid growing up in Canada in the ’80s and ’90s, the radio airplay and heavy MuchMusic rotation of both of these bands have left an indelible imprint on my formative musical memories that have stayed with me through the years.
The Pikes kicked things off with “King in His Castle” from their most recent release, 2019’s Forest of Love. Guitarist/vocalist, Bryan Potvin promised that the evening would include songs from “both centuries” as they treated fans to songs from their early catalogue as well as newer material. With their current lineup rounded out by now-permanent member Kevin Kane, the band played all the favourites, such as “Hopes Go Astray”, “Teenland”, “Things I Do For Money” and “Wait For Me”, as well as two well-known songs from Kane’s other band, The Grapes of Wrath. Trading off lead vocal duties with Potvin and Kane during the set, bassist Jay Semko took over on “Girl With a Problem,” which had the sold-out crowd dancing in the aisles to the steady rhythm of Pikes drummer Don Schmid, who was all smiles behind the kit. The band closed their set with a high-energy version of their biggest hit, “She Ain’t Pretty”, which included a medley of Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me” and Aerosmith’s “Draw The Line” worked into the middle section of the song.
After the crew had a chance to do the stage changeover and patrons had a chance to refill their drinks, The Pursuit of Happiness made their entrance to enthusiastic applause.
With a few decades of material under their belts, the TPOH had no shortage of songs to pull from, and singer/guitarist Moe Berg promised to play some from each album along the way. Their set kicked off with “Hard To Laugh,” after which Berg jokingly said that he thought he had just seen his dad and stepmom leaving after the Pikes finished, saying, “this happens all the time.” Berg led TPOH through a killer set of their trademark straight-ahead rock laced with the sugary sweet harmonies of Kris Abbott (guitar/vocals) and Renee Suchy (vocals/percussion), backed by Brad Barker (bass) and Dave Gilby (drums) on classics such as “Beautiful White”, “She’s So Young”, “Cigarette Dangles”, and the closer, “I’m An Adult Now”, whose lyrics about adult life, sore necks and backs resonates with me a little differently now that I’m in my forties.
The Shenkman crowd was a mixed demographic of lifelong fans and their teenage or young adult children who, like my own daughter, were raised on this music and are becoming the next generation of fans for both of these bands. The lights dimmed and the band left the stage, but the Shenkman Centre crowd made it clear that they wanted more. TPOH once again graced the stage, and played a raucous rendition of “Two Girls In One,” wrapping up the double-headlining show that proved to be a great night for Canadian music fans.