What: Corb Lund with Daniel Romano
Where: McPherson Playhouse
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
There are many ways in which to describe Corb Lund — alt-country all-star, Prairie poet, rock ’n’ roll raconteur and barroom bad-boy among them.
Lund, a native of Taber, Alta., seems suited to them all. He’s a performer with a full, dynamic range of sounds, ideas and inspirations, with a knack for inspired performance gluing it all together.
He engaged his full arsenal of tricks Tuesday during his sold-out show at the McPherson Playhouse. Tickets were gone well before showtime, as Lund is a favourite around these parts. Local audiences have seen his maturation first-hand, from brooding bassist in Edmonton rock heroes the Smalls to the early, awkward stages of what is now a thriving country career.
Once fit for small rooms like Logan’s Pub, he is now popular enough to make upper-echelon events his territory. And he has aged slowly but surely.
Lund is a crack country singer, which aligns perfectly with his cowboy background. He’s also the closest thing Canada has to an actual outlaw, an aspect of his personality that has netted Lund a raucous, rowdy fraternity of followers.
Fittingly, he was dressed all in black Tuesday, a dark-as-night cowboy hat pulled to just above his brow.
The lone exception early on was a red bandana fastened across his face, not unlike a bandit from the Wild West. All you could see for the first few songs were the whites of eyes; solidly built, and standing well over six feet, he made for an imposing figure, indeed.
The beauty of Lund is that he could get by with no tricks whatsoever. Though somewhat limited as a singer, his effectiveness comes by way of his believability. When he yodelled, he did so to honour the well-worn tradition. And when he tossed a bottle of water aside in disgust, he did so because he probably could have used a stiff drink.
His audience was also well-lubed, which added an extra layer of rowdiness to songs like Run This Town and Gettin’ Down on the Mountain. “Are they serving drinks tonight?” he quipped at one point, following one of the many slurred-speech sentiments shouted his way from the audience.
When another fan stumbled to the edge of the stage to request Family Reunion, the singer smiled. “I’ll play it for you, I promise,” Lund said, as the wobbly patron was escorted back to his seat. “If you’re still here.”
He wasn’t, having hit the wall plenty early.
Lund deserves everything he gets. The classic country touches are there — from double bass to pedal steel guitar — and his backing band, the Hurtin’ Albertans, would make Music City, U.S.A. proud. The best part? Lund and Co. are respectable country folk who let the music do the talking. That’s solid gold.
Daniel Romano made for an appealing opening act. The critically acclaimed Ontario singer-songwriter — he of the exceptional songwriting ability — proved to be a singer with complete control of his voice. Though his delivery bears a startling resemblance to that of Freewheelin’-era Bob Dylan, he sings in a manner that avoids impersonation. With subtle accompaniment from a bassist and singer-guitarist Kay Berkel, he delivered 40 minutes of pure, country-fried folk. Sublime.
If you haven’t already missed the opportunity to do so, hop aboard this train if it rolls through town. The tour stops tonight in Courtenay and Thursday in Duncan.