Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, 1925 Blanshard St.
When: Thursday, Nov. 24, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $51.50-$74.50 (incl. taxes and fees) from Select Your Tickets (250-220-7777) or selectyourtickets.com
For the members of Blue Rodeo, new albums are almost always written and recorded with touring in mind.
It has been that way since singer-guitarists Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy formed the group in 1984, and that approach was in play when the Toronto group put together its 16th and latest album, Many a Mile.
“There’s a high you get from the accomplishment of a well-played concert that is not the same as doing something in the studio,’ Cuddy said. “It’s just not even close.”
Released at the mid-point of the pandemic, Many a Mile came about in an unusual manner for the group, which has 30 Juno Award wins and nominations to its name. While the songs still sprung from the minds of Keelor and Cuddy, as they always do, the friends wrote in relative isolation — Cuddy at his farm in Southern Ontario, and Keelor at his in Peterborough, Ontario. Provincial health protocols meant collaborations with members of the group — bassist Bazil Donovan, drummer Glenn Milchem, keyboardist Mike Boguski and guitarists Colin Cripps and Jimmy Bowskill — took place on a random and rotating basis.
The sessions were meaningful for each member, perhaps moreso than ever before, Cuddy said. “We remembered how lucky we were. When that is taken away from you, you have a lot more gratitude.”
Many A Mile is the band’s first album in more than five years, a stretch that gave the band some time to let their new material breathe. An added benefit, according to Cuddy, was the benefit time away from the stage had on Keelor, who suffers from tinnitus and migraines. The break gave him room to heal from the wear and tear of his profession, Cuddy said.
“He had some pretty serious head and ear problems, so that let us shift everything around that. The pandemic allowed us to create some space, and gave us all this healing time. The joy of doing it came back.”
The setlist for the band’s cross-Canada tour was nailed down months ago, Cuddy said, with a theme of exploration in mind. They have taken to opening shows with the back-to-back punch of Trust Yourself and Diamond Mine, two of their best-known and most adventurous hits. That sets a tone for the evening, which in Victoria will not feature an opening act.
“For years, we would open acoustically, with Five Days in May. Now, we want to come out with a lot more energy,” Cuddy said. “We dug back into our early records, got the guitars going, and have shifted gears. We kept moving things around so we could have a dynamic that we were comfortable with. We have lots of songs, so we had lots of choices.”
In addition to a setlist 21 songs in length, there will be technological elements to the show that are new, Cuddy said. Fans can also expect some “guitar duelling” between Bowskill and Cripps, two of Canada’s most revered players. “We want to make sure that everybody has their moment. As [Greg and I] get older, people are probably tired of looking at us so we give them other things to look at.”
Even when it looked like traditional tours wouldn’t materialize, Cuddy said the band kept busy with online performances in and around the release of Many a Mile. A musician with 40 years in the business doesn’t forget how to play, but the parts need extra time to warm up before they can be expected to work like they once did, the 66-year-old Cuddy said with a laugh.
“There’s a certain amount of self-delusion in this business. When we first came back, we did a party for somebody, and I thought, ‘Wow, we were great. We haven’t lost anything.’ And now that we’re in the middle of a tour, and really firing on all cylinders, I can reflect back. We were not as good then as we are now. Constant play makes you really good.”