Hedley is one of those artists that I’ve listened to over the past few years, admittedly even cranked a few of their tunes in the car but never really paid that much attention to…that is until they blew the roof off of the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa on Saturday night.
The show started with a super energetic and incredibly soulful performance by Francesco Yates. This 20 year old Toronto native knows how to work the stage and the crowd, he better because he’s been recording since the age of 11. No stranger to Ottawa (Yates performed at both the Canada Day celebrations and RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest last summer), nor the stage, Yates wasted no time getting the crowd pumped up capping off his performance with Robin Schulz’s “Sugar” (Yates provides the vocals for the Schultz’s recording as well).
Following Yates was Canada’s pop sweetheart Carly Rae Jepsen. It’s been a few years since she broke through with her smash hit “Call Me Maybe” but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been busy. Jepson just wrapped up her Gimmie Love tour earlier this month, the tour played 50 dates along the east coast of the United States as well as Japan. Plus you may have seen her performance as Frenchy in Grease Live! and there’s also a good chance that you’ve heard her version of the Full House theme song for the Netflix reboot of the series called Fuller House. Currently promoting her third album, Emotion, it’s clear that Ms. Jepson has matured a lot in her sound since I first saw her at RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest in 2012. One thing hasn’t changed about Carly…much like she did in 2012 fans were invited to join her on stage once again…this time to dance.
With the warmup and stretching done it was time for the main event, Hedley. I heard part of their set last summer at RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest but the crowd in front of the stage was so massive it was impossible to get close enough while on my volunteer shift to get a closer look at what the fuss was all about…and now I know. The show started as though we were about to watch a sitcom with an opening theme and credits introducing all the players in the band leading up to Jacob Hoggard which brought the decibel level to it’s highest point of the night from the largely female audience. The band burst out onto the stage with the title track of their latest album, “Hello” and what followed was an awe inspiring circus of hits! I have to say Jacob is only a decade younger than me but he still has the moves and the energy of a 20 year old. In a span of 90 minutes Jacob jumps and spins around on the stage so many times I lost count and not just that he seems to manage to do it all without losing his breath…I couldn’t do one of his jump spin combos without falling down gasping for air. But the show is more than flashy moves and bright lights. Much like any rock band Hedley is great at slowing things down with some monster ballads like “Gunnin'”, “Old School” and,my all time favourite Hedley song, every man’s anthem, “Perfect”. Just Jacob and his piano was all that was needed to give this old man, referring to me, a chance to catch his breath.
The band had the crowd eating out of their hands all night which worked into their favour when it came time for the climactic “Lose Control”. Jacob told the crowd to sit down and wait and then at his cue the crowd was to jump up and not only did they the near sold out crowd did it so perfectly you’d swear it was rehearsed…my only regret was that I did not capture that moment on video it was absolutely one of the coolest things I’ve ever witnessed at a concert…and I’ve been to a few of those. Of course, as is the case with most major tours, most of the antics are scripted from the Ottawa Ontari…OH chants to Jacob stealing…borrowing…a fan’s cell phone and calling one of the numbers in the call history. What isn’t scripted is the outcome of that call. In last night’s case a women named Christine was sitting in the front row, just down from where I was sitting, and Jacob proceeded to “borrow” her phone. He read through a few text messages and then went through the call history. The first number he called, a restaurant, no one answered so he picked a second number…a woman named Sue. Unfortunately, or fortunately, Sue didn’t answer. But if Sue is a Hedley fan she now has a voicemail from Jacob and a few thousand screaming fans at the Canadian Tire Centre…who wouldn’t love getting that message?
As much as I love country it was fun to change the pace and cover a really rockin’ show that just made you want to get up and party. It was honestly one of my favourite shows, from an overall performance value, in a long time. The good news is if you haven’t had a chance to catch this tour yet there’s still time, the show continues for a few more dates in Southern Ontario before heading to western Canada but if you can get to Kirkland Lake, Ontario (about 2 hours north of North Bay, Ontario) Hedley will return to Ontario for a special show for Kirkland Lake Homecoming Weekend on June 24. For the full list of remaining dates visit: http://www.hedleyonline.com/tour/ I know that I, for one, can’t wait to see them again…soon…might just have to take the trip home to Kirkland Lake in June and introduce Hedley to my family.
Here’s a few more photo highlights from the night courtesy of the always incredible Sean Sisk!