Blues News Blog
Experience Bluesfest with daily posts, event highlights, and concert close-ups.
"Rocking the night away"
"Feeling Young and Wild and Free"
"Barenaked Ladies, like you've never seen them before"
‘It all started with a big bang’ when the Barenaked Ladies emerged on the main stage Friday night at Bluesfest. Playing the theme song to the popular television show The Big Bang Theory, the band had fans singing and dancing alone right from the get-go. The entire performance was customized to our city, with the lead vocalist asking things such as “how you feeling people of the national capital region?” The Barenaked Ladies played their old hit “One Week,” immediately followed by another classic, “If I Had A Million Dollars” as dollar signs floated around on the screen behind the band. Without warning, the musical smarty-pants incorporated a few lines from “Sweet Child of Mine” midway through their song.
The Barenaked Ladies didn’t stop the song-mashing there. In what became a soft-rock band’s attempt at rap, the lead singer serenaded us Ottawa folk with lyrics related to ‘Ottawa and the Gatineau region,’ showing they had done some pre-concert research. The rap ended and they sang the chorus of Katy Perry’s “Roar.” The line-borrowing mashups continued, and the three band members, not confined to a drum set seat, performed a choreographed dance to the song “Wake Me Up,” originally by Avicii. The final note in “Wrecking Ball” concluded their number, but as the crowd started clapping, the singer decided he wasn’t quite finished yet. Sounding like a WWE announcer, he belted his best and last ‘wrecking baaaallllll.’ You couldn’t help but laugh along with the goofy performers. They are a band that can produce hits, that can make other songs sound new and even more exciting, and yet they don’t take themselves too seriously.
The band asked if all of our Bluesfest dreams had come true, said thank you, waved, and then exited the stage. After what felt like an eternity of applause, the Barenaked Ladies ran back on stage prepared for their encore. The band played “Alcohol,” then a cover of Violent Femmes’ “Blister In The Sun.”
I will no longer only think of the Barenaked Ladies as classic rock musicians, I will think of them as music re-inventors.
"Blondie's still got it"
It was a beautifully warm evening on Thursday, July 10, a treat for the night’s Bluesfest-goers. Beginning at 8 was the pioneer punk band of the 1970s, Blondie, a title that came from the lead singer’s nickname and iconic platinum blonde hair. Full of energy and spirit, the band performed on the main stage, the Bell Stage, before a large crowd. Playing all their classic punk-style songs and rocking out like it was still 1970, Blondie impressed fans with their first ever Bluesfest appearance.
It seems it was the ultimate night for blonde singers with the name Deborah. Blondie’s lead vocalist is the very blonde Deborah Harry, and singer Long Tall Deb performed just before this band, on the Black Sheep Stage.
Later that night, The Band Perry took over the Bell Stage. This country band, composed of three siblings, played songs old and new for a crowd of country fans. Audience members sang along happily when they played their popular hit “If I Die Young.” As the temperature dropped the show came to an end. Everyone applauded loudly as this band puts on a stellar live show.
"Are we dancer? Yes we are."
Blasting onto stage like animals coming out of their cages, The Killers took to the Bluesfest stage Wednesday evening. Opening with their hit “Mr. Brightside” turned the quiet onlookers into a rowdy crowd of Killer-fans. The band’s drummer, Ronnie Vannucci Jr., gave it his all during the song’s musical interlude, encouraged by a roar of applause. Again the attention was put on the drummer as two white spotlights shined on him, the rest of stage covered by darkness. After a masterly drum performance, the rest of the lights came on and the band played “The Way it Was.” Adding a hint of personalization to their show, The Killers lead singer, Brandon Flowers, sang ‘can it be the way it was, Ottawa,’ replacing the original word ‘darlin.’ Us Ottawans really enjoyed that bit, and the singer smiled after hearing our reaction.
The Killers then asked the age old question. ‘Are we human or are we dancer?’ Though I wasn’t brought to my knees looking for the answer, I did find it. Considering me, my friends and the thousand other dancing lunatics, I’d say we’re definitely dancers. Mid-song Mr. Flowers called on us to not only dance, but sing as well. The entire Bluesfest area instantly filled with the lyrics to “Human.” The classic favourite “Somebody Told Me” was played, followed by “For Reasons Unknown.” In an attempt to connect with the audience once again, the band started a musical back and forth, repeating the singer’s line back to him. To close the concert The Killers played “All These Things That I’ve Done,” performing like true rock soldiers. I was disappointed that I never heard “When You Were Young” until they came back on stage for an encore and played it. In summary The Killers lived up to their name, and really did kill it on Wednesday night.
"Foreigners on stage with Foreigner"
It was a night of golden oldies as acts Styx, Don Felder, former lead guitarist of the Eagles, and Foreigner performed on Bluesfest’s 5th day. The heavy rainfalls and thunderstorm warnings could only scare away fans for so long. After a 25-minute delay caused by rain, Styx emerged onto the main stage. Spirits undamaged by the weather, the band put on an energetic show for a crowd of ponchos and umbrellas. As an encore, they played their hit “Come Sail Away,” and the bad weather began to sail away. It’s up for debate, but I have a feeling the sky was watching their show and rewarded loyal fans with a double rainbow, a sight of which the Styx made notice.
Foreigner were next to take the Bell Stage. Both the band and the fog machines hard at work putting on a show for fans. These guys had a surprising amount of energy on stage, even though they’ve been rocking out for nearly 40 years. When the Foreigner’s show wrapped up they were greeted on stage by some other ‘foreigners’ to help sing their encore song. Brookfield High School’s choir came out from hiding backstage and joined the rock band in the spotlight. Leaving best for last, the two musical groups sang Foreigner’s biggest hit “I Want to Know What Love Is,” the beloved 1984 ballad. Members of the choir expressed sheer joy from the amazing experience and the band reciprocated the feeling. All in all, the gloomy weather did not transfer into the night’s performances.
"Music gets paused"
"Feelin' a little bit country"
"Gaga for Gaga"
Scheduled in for Saturday, July 5 was pop star Lady Gaga. Wearing orange feathers and a platinum wig, she appeared on stage, welcomed by thousands of cheering fans. Beach balls bounced along the top of the crowd as they chanted the lyrics to her many popular songs. A powerful cannon sprayed the audience with white confetti, spreading far with the help of the night’s wind. Making the impossible possible, Lady Gaga made it snow in July, and it was beautiful. After playing the old classic “Just Dance,” the singer thanked us for changing her life by way of one track. She then sang, “Poker Face,” the song that launched her hugely successful career.
As one would assume, Lady Gaga never played more than three songs without changing from one insane outfit and headpiece to another. When I write insane, however, I mean magically and captivatingly insane. When this talented artist is on stage, she not only sings, but puts on an entire spectacle. The stage was filled with lights, dancers, confetti, costumes, props, musical instruments, and not to mention the enticing Lady Gaga herself. The singer then slowed down the tempo when she played her usually fast-paced song “Born This Way” as a slowed down, piano-acoustic version. Following this song that bears an important message, the artist made a birthday wish come true for one die-hard fan, or ‘little monster’ as she calls them. She made her way to the on-stage couch and read aloud the little monster’s note, that thanked her for being his inspiration. Lady Gaga wished him a happy birthday and the two hugged, as the audience erupted into applaud.
It was estimated that a total 27,000 people were in attendance Saturday night to see Lady Gaga perform at Bluesfest. Fans of all ages adored the star’s performance as well as overall attitude.
"Friday's fans 'faithfully' dance and sing along"
Fans, young and old, gathered at LeBreton Flats on Friday for Bluesfest’s second night of shows. At 8 o’clock, Journey appeared on the Bell Stage before a massive crowd. The band took us on a journey, as can only be expected, playing their 1983 hit “Faithfully.” The crowd, made up of both the youthful and the aged, sang along with Journey’s head vocalist, Arnel Pineda. The audience roared with delight as the song came to an end. I must say that Journey puts on an energetic aural as well as visual presentation. Engaging onlookers with their beloved songs, lyrics and by dancing around on the stage, Journey set the bar high for the following performers. The band concluded their show with the song everyone was waiting to hear, “Don’t Stop Believing.” The final note of the song was paired with an eruption of white confetti. The evening sky filled with falling white dots, and the atmosphere became highly spirited as the band called out to Ottawa and told us they loved us. The crowd applauded and whistled, impressed by the show and powerful ending.
Next on the Bell Stage was electro DJ, Zedd. Opening up his set with the song “Shotgun” established the mood for his show. With the only lyrics being ‘one, two, three, jump!’ audience members did just that. Hands in the air, fans jumped in unison, guided by the words on the jumbo TVs. The two TVs, to each side of the stage, as well the two below and above the DJ, offered a stunning visual element to his show. Matched perfectly with the music, the screens flashed with creative and engaging motion pictures. His performance was truly amazing, with the bright visuals corresponding in time with the booming music. When Zedd played his Billboard 100 hit “Clarity” it seemed as though all of Ottawa was singing along. Closing up his set with the Zedd remix of Empire Of The Sun’s song “Alive,” ensured fans were leaving with a lasting impression. Holding his hands in the air, as if saluting the hundreds (if not thousands) that came to see him, Zedd thanked us and left the stage. Although Journey raised the bar with an amazing performance, I can confidently say Zedd did rise to the occasion.
July 3, 2014
"All About Tonight"
Taking the wise words of Blake Shelton to heart, I’ve written Bluesfest highlights ‘all about tonight,’ to bring you the front row experience.
Plaid shirts and cowboy hats were in abundance yesterday at Bluesfest’s opening night. Canadian country singer Dean Brody, followed by The Voice star Blake Shelton, took to the Bell Stage in front of a crowd of eager, country fans.
Equipped with an army shirt, cowboy hat, and acoustic guitar, Dean Brody appeared for his 7 o’clock set. He serenaded his home country with some slower songs as well as some more upbeat songs that had everyone clapping along. I suppose Dean Brody is a bit of a rebel as he played his song “It’s Friday” when in fact it was Thursday. It seems the audience didn’t mind as they cheered an applauded his lively performance. Appropriately enough, this country singer then played “Canadian Girls” for all the foot-tapping Canadian girls in attendance. The show wrapped up and Dean Brody left the stage, however his drummer was not quite finished. With a grin reaching ear to ear, this percussion enthusiast played an impressive solo. With the final bang of the drums the crowd whistled and clapped for what was a truly amazing show by their fellow Canadians. The sea of plaid cleared slowly, soon to return for Blake Shelton.
It is now 9 o’clock and the sun has set, taking the warm temperature with it. I guess the flannel-wearing, Blake Shelton-awaiting country folk outsmarted us all with their choice of apparel. A few minutes later the night’s headliner graced the stage, guitar in hand. He opened with “All About Tonight,” then played “She Wouldn’t Be Gone.” This country star then voiced his admiration for all the men in the audience who he assumed had reluctantly accompanied their girlfriends and wives to the show. He showed his empathy for these gentlemen by playing “Doin’ What She Likes,” a song from his latest album. Although he didn’t need it, Blake Shelton then asked our permission to go old school. Back to the stage, he threw on a cowboy hat and instantly grew long hair, a past style for the country singer. He then played “Some Beach” from 2004, and we were transported back in time. As the show came to an end, fans applauded loudly. This marked the close of opening day for Bluesfest 2014.
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