Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Night with Joel Plaskett (plus friends and family)

Joel Plaskett makes you happy to be where you are.

He served up Canada in two rocking sets tonight in Kamloops. He didn’t come down to the level of the audience but rather, right from the beginning, brought everyone up to his level for a dazzling night of genuine, home-cooked hooks and hardworking rhythms that could only be fostered during those long, drunken Maritime evenings. With some help from his dad and two lovely ladies, Plaskett showed his strength as a musician and emphasized wholesome patriotism, a rarity in popular music.
His unhinged rhymes and uncanny dialogue had the crowd in stitches. From his “Hi-Fi” keyboard reminiscent of Ghostbusters to his tuning anecdotes, there were smiles all around.
The Pavillion’s acoustics further accentuated Plaskett’s soaring vocal range and his feet on stage moved like his fingers on the fret board; moon-walking the lead guitar and stomping out the rhythm. His main goal was to promote his new 27-song, triple album “Three.” He featured many songs including “Heartless, Heartless, Heartless,” “Through and Through and Through,[1]” “Rewind, Rewind, Rewind,” the heartfelt “Lazybones,” “Rollin Rollin Rollin” and “In the Blue Moonlight.” He also supplemented each song with contextual details which made Plaskett more accessible to his audience.
In a blue collared shirt, his sinewy arms and thick veins rocked five guitars, a bass drum and a snare (both played by hand) and his $6 second-hand keyboard. The ladies also took over keys, percussion, guitar and mandolin with his father picking progressions and lead on his own guitar. All contributed vocals and each member of Plaskett’s band played an original too.
Their chemistry on stage was like watching a bunch of old friends jamming into the wee hours around a kitchen table in the prairies. It was natural and effortless. His emphasis on Canada (and the Interior’s) beauty created an interesting correlation between the outside world and the dimly lit theatre.
This 34-year old is also a clever man. His continuous crowd interaction and laughter at his own “foolishness” for releasing a triple album showed his carefree, casual, oh-so-Canadian demeanour. Even when he accidentally said “Kelowna” and not “Kamloops,” he recovered smoothly, but his double apology showed that he truly did feel bad. The crowd harassed him nonetheless in good fun. Canadians love to over-apologize.
He dabbled a little bit from Ashtray Rock (the album he released with Emergency) which even caused spontaneous dancing during the “Fashionable People” encore. However, the big hit of the night was the radio-friendly “Nowhere with You.”
Local content and references (Dorian’s Greek House for example) reoccurred throughout the show—even though the last time he played Kamloops was in 1996 and he was too drunk to actually remember it. He saw how special the city “where the rivers meet” is, which helped us rediscover and reconnect with what we may overlook.
This foursome united a mosaic of Kamloopsians under good spirits, cheap beer, rock and roll and a love for our great country. Joel Plaskett writes songs that every Canadian can feel proud to identify with.


[1] Driving home after the show “Through and Through and Through” came on the radio. Like some corny montage that rolls at the end of summer camp, or high school, I replayed the concert in front of my rain-splattered, black windshield. I saw laughing eyes, wide smiles, times I wanted to celebrate life and times I wanted to retreat. All moments were fond and I truly think that I learned something from him. I hope I didn’t blow my car speakers.

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