It may have been less than a year since Johnny Reid brought his high spirited show to RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest but his local chapter of the Tartan Army didn’t have any issues packing into TD Place for, what many who have been to multiple stops on the tour are calling, one of the best shows to date on his “What Love Is All About Tour”
Before I get too far into my review I want to personally thank the amazing people at TD Place for the incredible night they showed my wife and I on Saturday. Although I have the opportunity to cover a lot of shows every year the majority of those shows only offer a single ticket for the reviewer and a single pass for the photographer, that means that 90% of the time I have to go solo and my wife has to sit at home. When the opportunity came to win a pair of passes to see Johnny at TD Place I figured what better show to bring my wife to than a Johnny Reid show. I’m sure there were hundreds of entries but somehow mine was picked and boy did they ever go out of their way to make us feel like VIPs.
Johnny Reid was only my second ever concert at the newly revitalised venue, the CUPE Event in November being the first. Although I have, admittedly, been critical of the location of the venue in the past we took some time to walk around Lansdowne Park before the show and they have really turned it into a beautiful street mall with plenty of little shops and restaurants that give off a very European vibe. Accessing the venue in both situations was easy and the large underground parking garage provides plenty of parking from which both the arena and the stadium are easily accessible.
Saturday night’s show, was kicked off by Calgary native JJ Shiplett. Although likely a fresh name to many in the audience, myself included, it didn’t take JJ long to capture the hearts of everyone, as he did when he first caught Johnny Reid’s ear, in the near sold out crowd. I heard from many in the audience that they came a Johnny Reid fan and left a JJ Shiplett fan as well. From the first note to the last note I absolutely loved his sound. One song that stuck with me was his telling of the 2013 floods in Calgary through his song “Higher Ground”, I was in Calgary in July of 2013 covering the final week of the Stampede and I was blown away by the fact that just a few weeks prior to my arrival much of the city and Stampede venue was under 6+ feet of water. The fact that the city was able to not just dry out but dry out enough to stage a world class event like the Stampede was unbelievable and the song “Higher Ground” speaks to that. I encourage anyone who hasn’t had a chance to catch JJ on the road to seek him out and give him a listen, his EP is available on iTunes now as well as at all of his shows.
We didn’t have Aaron Goodvin performing in Ottawa which to me was a disappointment seeing as we had recently had Aaron do a Mason Jar Session in Toronto. I was looking forward to catching his show live but I guess that will have to wait until the next time he’s in the Ottawa area. So with no Aaron that meant that it was straight into Johnny Reid. I was really looking forward to this because I had yet to see a full Johnny Reid show, at Bluesfest I had to split my time between him and The Tea Party and ended up leaving the venue before Johnny was finished as my 7 year old wingman had had his fill after a day filled with music.
Knowing so many members of Johnny’s Tartan Army and having had one of my contributors interview him for me at Manitoulin Country Fest last summer has really increased my hunger to catch one of his infamous live shows in it’s entirety. The cool thing about Saturday’s show was that it was also a first for my wife who was less familiar with Johnny and his music. When Johnny hit the stage he hit the stage running…and I don’t think he stopped to take a breath all night. I pointed out to my wife that Johnny is actually one month and one week younger than me (he was born August 21, 1974 and I was born July 14, 1974) and there is NO way I have that kind of energy lol, ok maybe I could do it one night but not night after night after night and especially not with a cold (you’d barely know he had a cold, even joked that the pharmacist told him he needed to suck on a Fisherman’s Friend…naturally he bought Halls. The first of many jokes that had the crowd roaring most of the night)
One thing that impressed me right off the bat was how humble this man is and how much he loves his fans. I’m fairly certain that if you had a seat on the floor and wanted to shake his hand or have him serenade you it was possible. Even engaging the, always, far too serious security guards whom he joked “were told they were going to be working at a Metallica concert, I’m pretty certain that nothing bad is going to happen here tonight” he said.
— Sound Check Ent. (@SoundCheckBlg) March 27, 2016
The tour was called “What Love Is All About” and after seeing the show in it’s entirety I think you can pull a few different meanings out of that title. Johnny frequently referenced the “bad things” going on in the world and said regardless of race, creed, religion or political beliefs there are only two types of people in this world “good people and “bad people” …of course everyone in attendance on Saturday were “good people”. But the message went beyond that. From the incredible performance by Ottawa’s own Hillcrest High School Choir of “Today I’m Gonna Try and Change the World” to his powerful duet with Senegal-born Montreal musician and fellow Juno winner Elage Diouf which brought the near sold out crowd at TD Place to their feet!
— Sound Check Ent. (@SoundCheckBlg) March 27, 2016
Johnny’s performance goes well beyond just music, there’s a reason the women love him so much. The man has an incredible amount of charm and he’s funny too. He also cares about the future of music and music in the schools and announced that $1 from every ticket sold Saturday night would go to support the music program at a local school thanks to MusiCounts. “Where does the rest of the money go?” he asked the audience. He pointed out his new black shoes, a change from his trademark white shoes, and joked “on sale at Winners, this jacket was 30% but don’t worry I kept the receipt I’m going to return it when I’m done”.
Everyone in the audience was in stitches, even my wife, who I should mention hates standup comedy, had the biggest smile on her face and let out some good laughs so, Johnny I think you won her over too!
The most unexpected part of the show, unless you’ve talked to someone who has seen the show or seen pictures of it, was the song “Peacock” a uncharacteristic Carribean number which even featured a giant peacock mascot while Johnny and the band all donned shades. But that’s what makes Johnny Reid such an incredible performer, he has unlimited tricks up his sleeve and is willing to pull a new one out at any time just to keep things interesting.
Adding the incredibly talented Natalie MacMaster to the show was a big bonus, adding her energy to an already energetic show just made it that much more fun and although the finale didn’t come with the pyro that, I heard, it ended with at Bluesfest simply having JJ, Natalie, Elage along with Johnny and his band all on stage rocking it out was equally explosive.
It’s been just over 24 hours now since the show ended and Johnny I’m already gearing up for next time, only next time my wife and I have already decided that my mother in-law needs to come too 🙂
Once again huge thanks to TD Place for having us out on Saturday night I truly hope you enjoyed my live coverage throughout the show. I look forward to covering many incredible events at both of your amazing venues in the future!