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Exceeding expectations

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The concert was billed as “Alan Frew and Friends.” Alan Frew, if you don’t know, was lead singer of eighties band Glass Tiger—a band, I will freely admit, I was never was never (still aren’t) much of a fan of.

But having seen Mr. Frew perform twice before in the Jeans’n’Classics format of rock band + symphony, I have definitely become a fan of Alan Frew’s. The man is a really a dynamic performer—charismatic, funny, energetic, and talented. Great voice.

So my expectations actuallyweren’t that low for this concert. Still, they were considerably exceeded.

Alan himself was again very funny, very charming as he recounted some of his latest adventures, which include a new song to raise funds for breast cancer research plus a recent stop to perform for the troops in Afghanistan. He also acted as master of ceremonies in introducing all his friends (joking that their collective ages would almost add up to Gordon Lightfoot’s), who helped raise the show to something special.

First guests up were the two founding members of the Spoons, Sandy Horne and Gord Deppe, who both still looked and sounded really good on “Nova Heart” (though with four guitars on stage at this point, it wasn’t a number that particularly highlighted the symphony). They returned in the second half with “Romantic Traffic,” which reminded me that I liked it so much, I had to buy it!

Lorraine Segato of Parachute Club was another guest. She seemed perhaps a bit subdued on the iconic “Rise Up” in the first half (though expressing her appreciation that people still wanted to hear these old songs), but warmed up in the second. Commenting on Frew’s skills as raconteur, she decided to tell the story of how she came to write “Dancing at the Feet of the Moon.” This was a phrase spoken to her by a man in Mexico. Then, for the first and only time in her life, she dreamt the entire song, both lyrics and music. She awoke and had to scramble to get it all down.

The song itself sounded great with the symphonic accompaniement, and a capella part with singers Rique Frank and Katherine Rose joining Segato was particularly awesome. (I tried to buy this song too, but it doesn’t seem to be easily available.)

Amy Sky was another performer. Woman has a serious set of pipes. She brought herself to tears on the touching “I Will Take Care of You.” A planned duet with husband Marc Jordan had to become a solo, as Jordan was fighting off a chest cold and couldn’t hit all the notes. That didn’t stop him from performing a couple numbers on his own, though.

Jordan was the Frew’s only rival as funniest man of the night. Before his first number, he commented on the wonder of playing with a symphony, “all these real musicians. Me, I just got into music to get laid. And I’m not leaving until I do!”

In the second half, before performing Rod Stewart’s “Rhythm of My Heart” (which Jordan wrote), he talked about how it’s nice to be recognized, and to have people ask for his autograph because they like his writing. Until he realized they were mistaking him for Margaret Atwood (think glasses, curly black hair… Anyway). Maybe that’s a “you had to be there” kind of joke. But lovely song.

The big discovery of the night, though, was one Stephan Moccio. Frew explained how they’d been introduced when Frew was looking for a song cowriter with serious piano chops. Moccio then played a solo piano piece called “October” that blew everyone away, really.

Frew afterward reported that Moccio’s Exposure album was the best-selling of its genre in Canadian music history.

In the second half, Moccio told the story of his adventures with one Céline Dion. He was a cocky (his words) music student at University of London when Dion came to perform there. Moccio met up with her manager/husband René Angelil and insisted he had to meet Dion. They did get arranged, and Moccio pledged that he would one day write her a hit song. She was fairly dismissive, but did manage to get photographic evidence of their meeting.

Flash-forward 10 years or so, and doesn’t Moccio get an opportunity to cowrite a song for Céline Dion’s comeback album. And doesn’t it just go to number 1 and sell and sell. (That would be “A New Day Has Come.”) So he met up with the chanteuse again at one of the big award shows, and he tells the story of their first meeting, and pulls out the picture. To which a delighted Dion responded:

“Oh my God! We both look so much better now!”

The big hit was then performed, with Katherine Rose standing in for Dion. And Rose has a great voice, but no, she couldn’t quite match Dion’s power. Whether or not that’s a good thing is a matter of taste.

With all these performance changes (and yes, Frew also performed several of his solo and Glass Tiger numbers) and stories, the show ran long. Too long for an encore. But thing is, it didn’t feel long at all. It was over 2 1/2 hours, but seemed like it went by in a flash. That’s when you know you’re having fun.

All performers were available afterward to meet fans, sign purchased products, etc. We all decided we wouldn’t mind getting Moccio’s CD. Good thing we didn’t dawdle on that, because we got the last three copies available! (Out of an original 60, apparently!) And, we got there just in time for him to sign them for us. And yes, he’s every bit as cute in person as he looks in the photo up there.

So all in all, that was a great evening. Next up is Woodstock—Who, Hendrix, Joplin, Santana, The Band, Jefferson… So my expectations are fairly high. We’ll see if they can be exceeded.

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