Blue Rodeo @ Bluesfest

Arts Coverage, Bluesfest 2018

Canadian country rockers Blue Rodeo headlined Bluesfest Thursday night.

Opening with love song “Five Days in May,” the band proceeded to play a selection of their best-known songs, including “Head Over Heels,” “Bad Timing,” and “Til I Am Myself Again.”

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Singer Jim Cuddy occasionally paused to tell the stories behind the songs. For instance, “What Am I Doing Here” was inspired by a terrible gig Blue Rodeo played headlining a high school battle of the bands at the Erie County Fair. And “Cynthia” is about watching for UFOs.

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Other highlights included a steely (well, as steely as Blue Rodeo gets) version of “Diamond Mine,” complete with a surprisingly proggy keyboard solo; blues-rock road song “The Railroad;” and a great version of “Trust Yourself.”

It was an unflashy set, for the most part. A minimalist light show accompanied Blue Rodeo’s mellow tunes, and after each song the stage lights would shut right off while the band prepared for the next song.

To be fair, flash wasn’t necessary. Blue Rodeo’s classic songs and appealing harmonies alone were enough to get the crowd dancing and singing along.

In an interesting feat of symmetry, the band closed with “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet,” a desolate breakup song that was the polar opposite of the romantic opener. (The audience knew this one so well they were able to sing the first several verses and chorus unaccompanied.)

For the encore, Blue Rodeo scored some points (with me, at least) by bringing out Ottawa alt-country singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards. Edwards, who owns a coffee shop in Stittsville, provided backup vocals on early Blue Rodeo single “Try” and sang a lovely verse on closing ballad “Lost Together.”

Blue Rodeo

All in all, it was a good night of Canadian music.

Performer: Blue Rodeo

Venue: Bluesfest – Lebreton Flats, Ottawa

Date: Thursday, July 12/2018

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