Republished from Orillia Sun Online.
By John Swartz
Rock and Roll Night
Last Saturday night I was at the Against The Wind: The Ultimate Bob Seger Experience concert at the Opera House. I went in expecting the concert to pretty good based on my previous conversation with bandleader Jeffery Goldstein and having listen to some of their Youtube videos.
That’s all fine, performance is another thing. On that count they had something going for them. All of the band members have played in other bands, a few you may have seen, and individually played some pretty big gigs. There’s nothing I can’t stand more than a bunch of posers. I want to watch people who take playing their instrument in public seriously. These folks do that.
The other thing I don’t like is seeing clone bands trying to be Memorex machines, especially when they don’t have the skills to do that. If one is performing music others wrote or made popular, and if one is going to be creditable one has to take ownership of the music, regardless if it’s a faithful arrangement or a new arrangement.
This was an authentic performance of music Bob Seger wrote and was famous for performing. The main character, if one has to say there is one for a band like this, is obviously the lead singer. Ty Wilson is likely the youngest member of the band, never saw Seger perform either, but he is a professional singer. His vocal timber isn’t the same as Seger’s, it’s in the range, and in a blind taste test you’d be able to tell which is which. That’s doesn’t matter if you understand the lyrics, the intent, the phrasing, and deliver them in the way the audience wants to hear them. That he did.
My exposure to Seger was constant with daily encounters of his music on the radio (often lying on the beach on the shore of Lake Huron). Daily because our radio was from Detroit and of course with Seger being from Michigan it was expected to hear something every hour. They played him only slightly more that Rush. That is to say, I know the tunes very well.
Getting past the singing, the musical performance and arranging are integral to making the best of a tribute performance. Of course a good portion of that is in the hand of the mixing board operator. Lately there have been many issues with sound in the Opera House (and other venues) and I’m happy to report this show was about 94% mixed as should be. The snare and tom drums, cymbals, bass, keyboards and guitars were about perfect. The guitars occasional weren’t distinguishable from each other, and same goes for keyboards (2 players). But when it counted (solos, key melody lines) they were present in proportion to how they should be. The same goes for the sax, played by John Panchyshyn. He has been a part of Lighthouse, so I expected his playing to be stellar. Seger featured the sax as a key voice in many of his tunes, so Panchysyn was often the focus of attention and it was pleasing to hear him pulled out of the mix to the front when it mattered.
I don’t know what it is with board operators that bass drums have to be so in your face. Saturday night was no different, with a bit of a difference. While it was over balanced, it at least was EQ’d better than recent experience and not so boomy that it obscured everything else happening in stage, I get its advantageous to give the bass drum some punch and a bit of prominence in the mix, but as a drummer I really wish board ops would figure out what they almost universally do is not musical.
That little issue was just that, a little issue because over all this was one of the best sounding concerts I’ve been to since Lance Anderson had a band in there. Oh, and the pair of backup singers can’t be overlooked. Those backup lines are also a key part of Seger’s music and the contribution of the ladies and where they sat in the mix made hearing the tunes that much better.
The audience, sold out, was eating this show up. Particularly the faster tempo, rock tunes. There’s nothing like seeing women from various parts of the audience jump up and start dancing in the aisles, in front of the stage, or in their rows. No one is ever going to stop that.
The best part, well, maybe not the best, but memorable, was the Leafs were playing at the same time. Ty gave updates on the score from time to time. And when the band was playing their last tune, Katmandu, minutes before 10 p.m. some fellow in a Leafs jersey jumped up, hands in the air, shouting and weaving his way through the dancing portion of the audience to the front of the house to celebrate the game win – which immediate set the entire house off into joy us applause and cheering. A lot of people are going to tell stories of where they were when the Leafs snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and for almost 700 people they will be saying it was at the Against The Wind concert.