The Cooper Brothers, along with a little help from their vast array of musician friends, gave a monumental performance in front of a sold out crowd at Ottawa’s Centrepointe Theatre this past Friday night. It was a celebration of their music, that has stood the test of time, since their first release, Finally, in 1974 under the Polydor label.
“Ottawa was very Country back then.” Brian Cooper explains, “and CFRA was our only music station. Growing up, we were inspired by the music of the Beatles, the Hollies, the Eagles, etc…bands with really well written songs and great harmony blending. Our sound became a natural meld of Country and Rock & Roll.” Indeed, after 40 years, their songs retain the same formula of a contemporary blend of Country and Rock, with beautiful lush vocal harmonies that have become The Cooper Brothers’ signature.
Their music has always remained a constant source of inspiration to others as well as to themselves. Despite a 20 year hiatus of its band members, they simply picked up exactly where they left off. Since their re-banding in 2006 that launched a “best of” compilation CD, they’ve shown no signs of slowing down. In fact, the momentum seems to have picked up, stimulating the songwriting juices once again. Since then Dick Cooper has written two albums worth of material…In From The Cold (2010 – produced by Colin Linden), and their latest, Southbound (2013 – produced by Colin Cripps), with more songs and ideas for upcoming projects waiting in the wings.
Today, the current Cooper Brothers band line-up consists of Dick Cooper (guitar), Brian Cooper (bass/vocals), Darwin Demers (guitar/vocals), Ed Bimm (keys/vocals), Rob Holtz (drums), Jeff Rogers (keys/guitar/sax/vocals), and John Steele (keys/pedal steel guitar/banjo).
During their performances of late, a special homage is usually paid to longtime friend, pedal steel/acoustic guitarist, and original co-founder of The Cooper Brothers, Terry King, who sadly lost his battle with lung cancer in 1998. A special song written in his memory, 62 Fairlane (In From The Cold), was performed in his honor last night. Also mentioned during the early part of the show was part-time CB band member, vocalist/flute player, Charlie Robertson, who passed away earlier this year. If My Heart Only Knew (Learning To Live With It 1981), a song that featured Charlie on lead vocals, was played by the band in his memory, and sung by Darwin Demers.
The list of guest performers throughout the evening was nothing short of impressive, many of them from the Ottawa area. Hard rockin’ Blues sensation and Juno 2014 nominees, MonkeyJunk, consisting of Tony D. (guitar), Steve Marriner (vocals/harp/guitar), and Matt Sobb (drums), added their flavors to the mix on Jukebox (In From The Cold)… a tune about a musician in Dick Cooper’s book of the same name (Jukebox 2007), who just can’t seem to get it together after his 15 minutes of fame have faded.
Another Juno 2014 nominee, Amanda Rheaume, lent her strong and sweet vocals to Our Love Deserves Better (In From The Cold), sharing some beautiful vocal harmonies with Brian Cooper.
Away From You (Cooper Brothers 1978), a beautiful ballad waltz that Dick wrote for his wife, featured the serious vocal chops of Peter Fredette (bassist/vocalist of the Kim Mitchell band).
Seasoned legendary musicians, Bobby Lalonde (violin) and Steve Pittico (guitar) appeared during the show numerous times, adding their masterly picking and playing skills to more CB favorites, including the final song before the encore, Southbound from their current CD of the same name.
Rockin’ licks by Colin Cripps (guitarist for Blue Rodeo, and the Jim Cuddy band), during Paradise Pie (In From The Cold), a song laced with toe-tapping funk, with lead vocals by Ottawa’s sensational Cougar Chicks (Ornella Kennedy, Leslie Barkell Rohonczy, and Joanne McCann). Musical guest, Topher Stott (drummer, producer, and co-founder of League of Rock), stayed on board throughout the evening, offering his dynamic percussion skills in every song.
Other highlights of the show included another CB favorite, Show Some Emotion (Cooper Brothers), featuring Darwin Demers on vocals, and multi instrumentalist, Jeff Rogers on sax. Jeff also displays his amazing talent in lead vocals and keys on one of my personal favorites later in the show, Five Point Five …a song from their latest album, Southbound, thick with funky R&B groove that had me moving in my seat. And finally, the pièce de résistance, saved for the encore, was the classic, The Dream Never Dies (Cooper Brothers)…a hit from the past that has touched so many, with its message of hope and perseverance. “It’s just one of those songs that have a long life after they’re written…” expresses Dick Cooper. This was certainly evident tonight, being that the audience deserved most of the vocal credit on that one, with arms raised in the air, and hearts joined in song…celebrating a band that after 40 years, has still a great deal of living yet to do.