What: Glass Tiger with Jessica Mitchell
Where: McPherson Playhouse, 3 Centennial Square
When: Friday, Nov. 9, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $45-$53 in person at the Royal McPherson box office, by phone at 250-386-6121 or online at rmts.cbc.ca
Note: Glass Tiger also performs Saturday at Nanaimo’s Port Theatre
Glass Tiger has typically played larger venues — especially during the early part of its Grammy-nominated career, back in the 1980s — but is taking a different approach for its current string of dates.
The group from Newmarket, Ont., is focusing on intimacy for its first-ever acoustic tour, which stops Friday at the McPherson Playhouse. “We wanted to keep doing rock festivals and be the full-on rock band that we’ve been for 30 years, but we also thought it would be interesting to do some of these more intimate theatres, where the rock format doesn’t really suit smaller rooms,” said keyboardist Sam Reid, who co-founded Glass Tiger with singer Alan Frew.
“We’ve done acoustic appearances over the years, but we never really formalized it in a tour until now.”
Frew and Davies will join founding guitarist Al Connelly and backup singer Jessica Mitchell for the run of concerts, an idea that came out of recording sessions for their album from this year, 31.
The recording, produced by popular entertainer Johnny Reid, featured stripped-down versions of their biggest hits — Someday, Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone), My Town, I Will Be There and others — in a newly updated setting. For example, Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone) has been recast as Forgotten (But Not Gone.)
They previewed the new versions during a run of dates this year with Johnny Reid, following three months in the studio with him as their producer. When he asked if they wanted to make a cameo appearance at some of the shows, Sam Reid said, they jumped at the chance, imagining it would amount to a few brief appearances.
“We eventually did 44 dates across Canada,” Reid said, with a laugh. “And that’s why we’re back here now doing a full 90-minute show.”
The rootsy reboots have led to some unexpected results in concert. The five-time Juno Award winners, who were one of the top Canadian exports during the 1980s, are meeting with a flood of fans following each show, some of whom share stories that go back decades.
“Vocals especially pop out on these shows,” Reid said. “When you don’t have as many layers, and you’re dealing with just the chord structure, melody, people are paying attention to the lyrics. We had a lady the other night who came up to us and told us she has been singing Thin Red Line for years, but what she thought she was singing was something about wine. This environment accentuates the lyrics.”
The timing of the acoustic tour was perfect from a fan standpoint, Reid said. More than three decades have passed since the band spent two weeks at No. 1 with Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone) in 1986, and older fans are less inclined to see Glass Tiger play a loud rock show every time they tour.
Reid loves that the toned-down performances leave room for storytelling between songs. “Alan is never stuck for words. He’s a very outgoing individual, and because of this format, he’s got these stories he will pull out of his pocket. We get to do things like that, which we cannot do in the middle of a rock show.”
Glass Tiger has been on the Island since Tuesday, for concerts in Duncan and Campbell River. Following its McPherson Playhouse appearance on Friday, the band will travel to Nanaimo for a performance Saturday at the Port Theatre, before heading east.
Reid said the band hasn’t discussed extensive future tours of this kind, but he’s certain there will be more acoustic runs when full-blown-rock dates allow.
“We will enjoy doing this the theatre run, and will do more of it, but we’ve already booked next summer the way we normally would, with multi-band festivals. We are comfortably able to do both. We are in a really sweet spot.”