Sing for your City

The Rheostatics
Horseshoe Tavern
November 17, 2004
For over 20 years, The Rheostatics have been a band who can take the stage and effortlessly fuse moments of utter silliness and unrivaled brilliance, often within the same show, often within the same song. So who else would take the utterly unrivaled stance of stepping back from the mic for a night and allow friends and family to assume the role of vocal for a night? Not Candi and the Backbeat, that's for sure!

This was day seven of The Rheostatics' annual Fall National homestand at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern and as one of the city's most beloved bands, they were able to handpick a group of supporters willing to belt out some back catalogue for the sake of the Rheos' faithful, out in good numbers considering the late-ish Wednesday night billing. Although the band were hampered by technical difficulties, their succinct sense of spontaneity took over and that in and off itself, is what showmanship is all aboutÍ or at least partially about, I guess. Either way, getting to watch Martin Tielli contort himself around his weirdo guitar collection for a few hours is worth the price of admission alone.

As a long time Rheostatics fan myself, this was a great opportunity to see the boys pluck some chestnuts from their satchel that perhaps hadn't been unearthed in a while. "Lying's Wrong", for example. A solid moral lesson in name to be certain, but more importantly, a wonderfully loopy album track from the band's seminal Canrock masterpiece Melville. Sung dutifully by local singer/songwriter (and former Soul Shine subject matter) Amer Diab, the track was just the tip of the ice cube, which is ironic because it was actually quite mild on the walk home. Go figure!

As it turns out, the evening featured a number of other vocalists who are currently on display in the Soul Shine archives: Melissa McClelland warbled her way through "Aliens (Christmas 1988)" while Chris Brown burned through a stand-up version of "Bad Time to Be Poor". Then, there was Kate Fenner. Long one of the finest and most distinctive vocalists Toronto has ever produced, Kate must've forgotten her lyric sheet or something because her delivery of "Northern Wish" seemed to be missing a few words. But to the rescue, the Rheos kicked in with some improved harmonies that transformed the tune from a waifish love letter to a full-blown oral assault.

Aside from the obvious, there were some lesser-known guest stars that really pounded them pork chops real good(?!?). Royal Wood sang "It", Jennifer Foster sang "Take Me In Your Hand" and Dave Bidini's wife (name withheld for the sake of laziness) sang "Harmelodia"ˇtruly amazing to see the breadth AND width of people The Rheostatics' music has touched. There were lots of laughs to be had at the butchered words and slurred chorus. Yet more than anything, this was a celebration of one of the best-est Toronto bands of all-time and the people who love them.

Writer: Cameron Gordon

Photo:Mikey The Rheostatics Guy

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