Blue Rodeo / Justin Rutledge Massey Hall, Toronto ON - January 19, 2006

While the years of playing in a country-rock band have taken their toll physically on the boys from Blue Rodeo, they showed during the first of a three-night stand at Massey Hall that their music keeps getting better. As the clock approached eight p.m., the venerable ole Massey was half empty. Those that arrived late missed TO troubadour Justin Rutledge's fine alt-country-flavoured set. A tight band that included Rodeo bassist Bazil Donavon joined Rutledge to provide a perfect warm up to the country-rock that followed. Rutledge joked that Donavon was excited since he had always wanted to open for Blue Rodeo. Running through the highs of his CD, No Never Alone, which included ruminating renditions of "Too Sober to Sleep" and "Lay Me Down Sweet Jesus," Rutledge looked comfortable on this historic stage and won over many new fans. Backed by some of the greatest sideman, including steel guitarist Bob Egan and new keyboardist Bob Packwood, Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor possess that rare chemistry between two equally talented songwriters that has somehow been sustained over decades. The pair shares the spotlight amicably and allows each other to showcase their respective compositions. This night was no exception. Moving from acoustic guitar to electric with ease, the pair took turns showcasing their hits from then and now, all accompanied with their trademark harmonies. From Cuddy's tribute to his wife ("Rena") to Keelor's gospel proclamation on the traditional "Somebody Touched Me," there was a little something for every Rodeo fan. Digging into their trove of treasured songs, including a handful from their latest disc, Are You Ready, Blue Rodeo played a tight two-hour, two-encore set. Opening with "What Am I Doing Here?" and ending with the riotous, sweat-soaked Lee Hazelwood number "Railroad Song," in which Rutledge was invited back to play Cuddy's acoustic; the boys in the band proved that 20 years on they still are relevant.