We may be experiencing some cold wet weather outside but all was comfy cozy inside the Living Arts Centre with Jim Cuddy's familiar brand of country meets pop with a tinge of rock. The Centre itself is quite impressive with a grand lobby, roomy seats, lovely balcony and large stage.
Etobicoke native, Justin Rutledge dedicated his set to "my grandmother, who lived in Mississauga and passed away a few years ago. I haven't been back since." With his school boy good looks, Justin offered up some of the melancholy melodies he's become known for since his first CD No Never Alone. The mood did lighten as Rutledge let loose newer tracks from his latest The Devil on a Bench in Stanley Park. Playful lyrics like "I'm your man. You're my radio" and "Robin's Tune", "a song about a very bad girl, having a very good time," showcases how Rutledge has grown as a songwriter. Still his best came from the slow and emotional "Too Drunk to Cry", an original from his first album.
Anticipation and seats filled as the stage was set with more guitars, electric and acoustic, a banjo, keys, drums and even a fiddle. Jim Cuddy casually took the stage with a wave and led us all through an evening that felt more like a gathering than a formal concert. "We have to find a way to unstiffify this place and it starts with me," was just one of the ways Jim eased his audience into his world. If you were expecting a lot of Blue Rodeo tunes, you may have been disappointed, as only a select few like "5 Days in May" and "Trust" made the cut.
Cuddy focused mainly on his new album The Light That Guides You Home, which is filled with deeply personal songs. The addition of the fiddle, slight rustic piano and strong female support vocals easily distinguish this latest solo project. The ladies shone on this night. Anne Lindsay on her fiddle bedazzled in many centre stage solos and made the violin actually look cool. Special guest, Kathleen Edwards took to the mic for the fun country tale, "Married Again". "It's a song about a story I read in the newspaper about a couple who went to Vegas to celebrate their divorce and ended up in a heart shaped bed after visiting the chapel the night before, getting married again," explains Jim.
It is this unique style of storytelling that draws you into Cuddy's thoughts and deepest feelings. That was most evident as Jim told the tragically beautiful story of "my mother's sister, who was dying. I looked at her husband and said 'this must be hard'. He replied, 'I'm losing my best friend of 62 years.' Sixty-two years, a staggering number of years to be relying on each other. This song is about his struggle, going through this alone." I already love his latest "Pull Me Though", but knowing where the inspiration came from and hearing Jim squeeze every bit of anguish from his voice into this song was overwhelming.
The night ended with everyone back on stage as Rutledge joined in for a duet and a few beautiful five part harmonies. As Cuddy said "Thank you for listening to so many new tracks," you wanted to hug him and say "thank you for inviting us."
Writer: Lisa Kerr