Concert Review: The Jim Cuddy Band, January 23, Danforth Music Hall


During his show at the Danforth Music Hall on Thursday night, Jim Cuddy seemed happy to be playing a hometown show, especially one that was particularly close to home. Cuddy, who lives in the neighbourhood, commented that he walks by the venue all the time and that usually he doesn’t recognize half the bands on the marquee. “Now I’m one of those,” he said, adding that people were probably walking by asking, “Who the hell is Jim Cuddy?”

While Cuddy was being a bit self-deprecating as he played to a roomful of fans who certainly knew who he was, there is likely a bit of truth to his statement. In fact, I can attest that just before the show, while enjoying a pint at a nearby bar, I overheard the bartender explaining to a customer that Jim Cuddy was the singer for Blue Rodeo and then explaining who Blue Rodeo was. It made me feel old, and I imagine it might make Cuddy feel even older. Still, even if Cuddy isn’t looming quite as large in the Canadian pop cultural spotlight as he was back in the ’80s and ’90s he’s certainly cemented his place in the pantheon of Canadian music. And he’s hardly slowed down, releasing new stuff pretty consistently with both Blue Rodeo and under his own name, including his latest album, 2019’s Countrywide Soul, which sees Cuddy and his band revisiting and reworking several of his older songs.

Live, Cuddy and his band (who were joined by Jim Bowskill midway through the show) put on an impressive performance, with some of the highlights coming from those reworked songs off the new album. Particular standouts included “All In Time” and “Skyscraper Soul”, the latter a love letter of sorts to Toronto which Cuddy prefaced by reminding the Toronto crowd that “we live in the most detested city in the country.” Of course, the songs that really got the crowd going were the handful of Blue Rodeo numbers that the band played – “Try”, “After The Rain”, “It Could Happen To You” and “5 Days In May”, which featured an impressive solo from violinist Anne Lindsay, who took Greg Keelor’s grungy, Neil Young-ian guitar solo from the original version and put her own spin on it while matching the intensity of the original.

During the encore, bassist Basil Donovan took the lead on a cover of Willie Nelson’s “Me And Paul” which Cuddy described as his favourite part of the night. Following that with another cover, the band launched into their version of “Rhinestone Cowboy” (also on the new album) before taking things down a notch for the final number, an unamplified, acoustic performance of “Wash Me Down” performed at the front of the stage. It’s a trick I’ve seen more than a few bands use to end off their set, but it’s one that tends to work quite well. This night was no exception, with the harmonies of Cuddy and his bandmates (along with openers Elliott Brood) ending things off on a good note.

Posted on by Paul in Concerts

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