From practically the beginning of their 32-year career, Blue Rodeo has had a home in London — even if sometimes it was in a space almost too small to set up a microphone stand.
Blue Rodeo is returning to the Forest City on Sunday, Feb. 21, when they will perform at Budweiser Gardens in support of the band’s latest album — Live At Massey Hall.
Jim Cuddy, who is co-vocalist along with Greg Keelor, recalls vividly the band’s long association with London, an association formed from the city’s strong university and college fan base.
“We’ve played a bunch of orientation gigs in fields. Those gigs, winter carnival things, that was the way all the Canadian bands of our era got to know their audience,” Cuddy said. “It was 54-40, and us, and K.D. Lang, and Jeff Healey and the Hip; we developed such a strong audience from those gigs. We actually go back to Call the Office. It was always fun, always a very lively crowd.”
While it is “fun” to reminisce, Cuddy said it is always the present tense circumstances that make the biggest difference for him and the band.
The days of the bars and the college events are over as Blue Rodeo is a much different band today. After all, they couldn’t do musically what they want in those smaller venues.
Cuddy said the nice thing about playing arenas — and especially in the smaller format such as the RBC Theatre set up at Budweiser Gardens — is they have the excitement of a public event, but not the formality of a theatre show.
They also allow the full gambit of theatrics, including high-end lighting and sound systems.
Being on tour also gives the guys in the band a sense of comfort that might surprise some after a 30-plus year career.
If there is any sense of “same ole, same ole,” it would be in a good way.
“We like the really streamlined life you live on the road. You only have to get yourself ready for the stage at night. It’s a lot easier than life,” Cuddy said. “We forget how much energy it takes to do it, but once you get a week under your belt, you’re fine. It becomes a bit more of a thrill each year because we’re still able to do it.”
That does raise the question of how much longer Cuddy and his bandmates will continue with a career many artists today can only imagine.
In fact, it is the one question he is asked most often.
The answer, or at least one possible answer, is for as long as they can keep a crowd entertained.
But he is quick to add that also means continuing to make new music.
“We wouldn’t respect ourselves if we just went out and were a nostalgia act. There are times to go out and just do your catalogue; that’s easy and fun,” Cuddy said. “But generally, it is making new music that is the greatest thrill of what we do. It’s always worth it to add new songs to the catalogue. We are trying to be uplifting and inspiring, not just memory provoking.”
One benefit Cuddy said Blue Rodeo has is the loyalty of Canadian audiences.
As long as they are treated well — and by that he means bands constantly striving to do better — Canadian fans will stick with their favourite artists, happily embracing the new music they are releasing.
That kind of commitment, he said, tend to be rewarded.
“The question of how much longer (the band will continue) relates my job to most other people’s jobs, which they want to stop. I’m not in that kind of job,” Cuddy said. “I’m in the kind of job I want to be able to do until I drop. When you talk about longevity, there’s Springsteen (66), McCartney singing like he does in his 70s (73), so I think I (at 60) have a few more shows in me anyway.”