Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Grapes of Wrath still make sweet music

I saw The Grapes of Wrath for the first time in more than 20 years when the reunited Kevin Kane and Tom Hooper played in front of a smallish audience at Toronto's El Mocambo as part of the pre-Juno Awards festivities in March 2011.

There was a considerably larger crowd on hand at Toronto's Mod Club on Tuesday night, when Kane and Hooper (with original drummer Chris Hooper back in the fold this time, along with another guitarist and keyboard player) took the stage on the 20th anniversary of the band's original break-up after a show at Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom.

Julie Doiron got folks warmed up with an enjoyable 45-minute opening set, and CBC Radio 2 host Rich Terfry announced that the concert was being recorded for a later broadcast before he brought the Grapes to the stage.

The set began with "O Lucky Man" and guitarist Kane and bassist Hooper showed that the harmonies that helped make the Grapes so popular in the '80s haven't gone anywhere in the succeeding years. It was followed by "Stay," and then it was time for the first of the guests who'd been lined up to perform with the group.

I'd seen Ron Sexsmith do the same thing the night before with Blue Rodeo, but this evening he also brought Doiron on stage to help the Grapes with "Backward Town."

"Good to See You," one of two new songs on the Grapes' just-released Singles collection that's also the first single from a new studio album scheduled for a February release through Aporia Records, sounded as good as anything from the catalogue.

The Grapes had never performed with a banjo player until Great Lake Swimmers' Erik Arnesen and Tony Dekker joined them for "The Most." "A Fishing Tale" brought the rock, "A Dream (About You)" kept the momentum going and the band kept on a roll through "Misunderstanding" and "I Am Here."

The other band members left Kane and Hooper alone on stage with acoustic guitars for another new song, "Take On The Day."

Whitehorse's Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, who had also played with Blue Rodeo the night before, kept the gentle vibe alive when they joined the other Grapes members who'd returned to the stage for "All The Things I Wasn't." Hayden was up next for "What Was Going Through My Head" and helped it excel, while the Grapes handled "Do You Want to Tell Me" just fine on their own.

Sam Roberts was the final guest of the night and took a co-starring role with the organ on an excellent "You May Be Right." The 65-minute set ended with a butt-kicking "Peace of Mind" that left the crowd wanting more.

The Grapes returned for a very solid "A Very Special Day" before ending the night with a well-executed cover of The Beatles' "If I Needed Someone."

The Grapes of Wrath probably wouldn't have become the next Beatles even if the group had stayed together, but it produced some of the best and most commercially viable jangly pop-rock songs to come out of Canada in its prime. And judging by "Good to See You," it could do it again.

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