Local singer-songwriter Vince Andrushko, backed by a hot rhythm section, warmed up the modest crowd with a dozen bluesy western numbers, including a seemingly impromptu cover of Billy Joe Shaver's "Old Chunk of Coal." Andrushko is a skilled guitar player whose fretwork is on point yet understated, and the band had a few patrons up and dancing before they were through.
Between acts, the Times Change(d) began to fill up, so that by the time the Devin Cuddy Band kicked off their first set with an impassioned cover of Townes Van Zandt's "Waiting Around to Die," it was standing room only in the small club. The quartet performed two hour-long sets of originals off their two albums, with enough classic covers thrown in throughout to suit anyone's taste. From Stompin' Tom Connors' "To It and At It" to Hank Williams' "Jambalaya" to an encore of the Boss's "Hungry Heart," the boys had the small dance floor moving the whole evening.
Perhaps more impressive were the live renditions of the band's originals. While their Juno-nominated Vol. 1 and the brand spanking new Kitchen Knife are polished records that display the band's versatile sound, the band is truly in its element before a live crowd, and ideally one as ready to get up and move as the crowd at the Times last night. Undoubtedly, the band's tenure at Toronto's Cameron House has polished their chops, and its not hard to see them as continuing their hometown's fine bar band tradition that stretches back all the way to Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks.
Over their two hours onstage, Devon Cuddy Band played comfortably yet tightly together while freight trains passed in the window behind them along the CN line. Cuddy himself, on keys and lead vocals, is a born performer with a keen sense of where each song needs to go and how to get there. And while each member's contribution cannot be understated, the phenomenal guitar playing of Nichol Robertson certainly lit the place up on more than one occasion. With the beer and bourbon flowing, anyone who managed to catch the intimate performance went home feeling better for it, hangover be damned.