Whitehorse with Jim Cuddy Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON, June 19

Whitehorse with Jim Cuddy Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON, June 19
Photo: Stephen McGill
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The 'Shoe was packed for this, the premiere act of the night. Jim Cuddy, co-frontman for Toronto's beloved Blue Rodeo (and Canada's answer to Rodney Crowell), sauntered onstage to audible ooohs from the crowd. (Dude's pretty, and ageless.) Playing alongside Whitehorse's Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland (she about eight months pregnant and he about 130 lbs after years of marathon training), they made for a pretty oddball rock'n'roll visual. Singing together on set opener "Devil Got A Gun," however, they sounded like the best band in town. And, maybe tonight, they were. Certainly, as they launched into Cuddy's swampy, bluesy "Watch Yourself Go Down," it occurred to me that, despite this being a cobbled together supergroup, the pieces fit together with laser-cut precision.

Introducing a song from Whitehorse's as-yet unfinished new record, Doucet pointed to his heroically pregnant wife. "It's gong to be a very sexy record, as you can see." "Ha!," retorted McClelland, gamely holding her belly. "Not so sexy anymore!" The mood was fun, casual, playful and infectious, and the set list was crafted for maximum fan pleasure. A lengthy (and quite extraordinary) take on Cuddy's "Five Days In May" (arguably the best song he's ever written) was the show's highlight, boasting a revolving door of soloists culminating in an absolute ripper from Doucet. Man can swing an axe.

Winding down the set, Whitehorse led them through their hit cover of Springsteen's dark, obsessive "I'm On Fire" and then Cuddy took the reins for a killer reading of "Till I Am Myself Again" (my favourite ever Blue Rodeo song, and I'm sure I'm not alone). They probably should have ended the show right there, walked off to screams and cheers. Instead, an unnecessary encore (a song most people didn't recognize) found the enthusiasm dip somewhat.

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