Justin Rutledge Rivoli, Toronto ON, June 13

Justin Rutledge Rivoli, Toronto ON, June 13
Photo: Shane Parent
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Most of the attendees were couples. These couples all had one song they particularly cherished. Back rubbing and low-level frottage intensified when these songs were played. It almost made you feel bad for the handful of folks who'd come with the simple intention of listening to some good music.

Rutledge opened with five solo acoustic songs including some of his best pieces like "St. Peter" and "Penny for the Band." Unfortunately he had to compete with a lot of chatter from the crowd. Rutledge has a great line, "I'll see you no more at the Cadillac," which might be interpreted as meaning that after paying his dues, Rutledge has risen above playing venues like the Cadillac Lounge. Ironically, a Cadillac Lounge audience may have been more respectful than the one that turned up at the Rivoli. His command of the audience did increase after he was joined by his band. Maybe it would have been better not to open with the solo acoustic material.

He announced that the first set would be all JR songs, and the second would be Tragically Hip songs from his recent covers album Daredevil. This worked on a couple of levels. It allowed him to condense his own set so that just about every song was one of his major accomplishments like "Too Sober to Sleep" or "Alberta Breeze." The second set gave the band a chance to stretch their muscles; at one point two drummers were in action.

After leaving the stage for less than two seconds, Rutledge returned by himself to take requests. The former literary magazine editor played "1855," his ode to Walt Whitman, and then his signature closer "Don't Be So Mean, Jellybean," during which he stepped into the audience and had them sing along.

A performer of Rutledge's calibre shouldn't have to compete with the narcissistic tendencies of Queen West d-bags. At this stage of his career it might be preferable to see Justin Rutledge in a seated venue.

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