JUNE 6th 2015

Review by: Lana Muirhead
Photos by: Peter Ruttan

Photos: http://www.metaltitans.com/concertpics/kim-mitchell/

A great mixed crowd packed the Commodore Ballroom on June 5, 2015, waiting on the well-known Sarnia, Ontario boy, born Joseph Kim Mitchell. Guys and gals as young as 19 to those who couldn’t stand on their own (older folk, though the drunks had their place too) were all in attendance, priming themselves with drinks and dancing to the golden oldies spewed from the waiting speakers.  Old hippies and glitterati came together under this one roof united under the common banner of good ole rock’n’roll.

When the music dimmed and Kim with his guitar, Peter Fredette with his bass, Chris Sutherland on his drums and Ray Coburn (of Honeymoon Suite) with his keyboard, all poised to launch into the “Rock’n’Roll Duty” opener, the crowd roared.  Balcony dwellers, table huggers and standers alike tossed up their hands and bobbed their heads to the beats. Initially it seemed the instruments overpowered poor Kim’s crooning voice, but this seemed to rectify itself once the groove was set.  Regardless of the age factor (Kim is 63 years old right now) all parties were on point, working together and playing off each other like they were back in the ‘80s again.  Being a Kim Mitchell Band concert virgin, I wasn’t sure whether to expect a little backing off/caution from the boys but there was none to be had!  An 8-ish minute rendition of “Can’t Save Love” and serious string tickling on “Alanna Loves Me” sold me on Kim still being able to rock it. He clearly has not been softened by his cushy drive home radio spot on Toronto’s Q107.

A more modern musical mind may argue the relevance of such a band in these times, and venture to say that the simplistic riffs of Kim and company’s music are simply unable to compete with the musical array available today.  When we consider speed metal, double bass drums and synthesizers (oh my!) the catchy beats of days of yore are seemingly child’s play in the ever-more complicated musical game. This is where I say it is important to note that Kim’s first big hit band, Max Webster, was considered the first “indy” and “alternative” music of its kind in the 1970s.  Their eclectic instrumentals and new-age sound paved the way for a new kind of music that was arguably perfected and shot to stardom by long-time friends known as the band Rush.

So how is it that we find persons as young as 19, who would have only been 11 when Kim’s last album was released (2007’s Ain’t Life Amazing) and not even a sperm in their father’s sack when Webster released their first album (1976’s self-titled), be belting out the words to Kim’s songs?  As the man himself said at the show: “You parents gotta stop shoving your music down your kids’ throats!”  The good stuff clearly lives forever. The band played a couple of Webster songs, including “Paradise Skies”, “Blue River Liquor Shine”, and “High Class in Borrowed Shoes”, and nailed them.  As one concert goer said, they remembered being in high school and smoking weed to Max Webster songs so this night was indeed very special for them. Personally, the feel good bounce and groove for “Blue River…” really hit home as to how great and timeless Kim’s music truly is.

As they moved toward “I Am A Wild Party”, Kim plucked away at his guitar, reminding me of a bird bobbing and swaying with each note.  The quartet clearly fed off the energy of the crowd, teasing out the nostalgia with each down-stroke.  This was followed up with “Easy to Tame” where Kim let loose a little, dancing around, doing the ‘drowning dance’.

Next came a song co-written with a Kamloops native called “In the Stars Tonight”. This was not as well received by the crowd and many were seen taking the opportunity to fill their glasses again.  Kim pulled them back though by ‘funking it up’ with “Lemon Wedge”, moving through to “Rocklandwonderland” and “All We Are”, culminating in arguably their most popular tune: “Patio Lanterns”.  Ray just shone on the keyboards and there wasn’t a mouth in the house not singing the words.

The KMB closed the night with “Go For A Soda” and at points it was impossible to even hear Peter on back-up vocals because of the roar of the crowd. Had Kim and company stopped playing altogether, the song would still have gone on to completion.  (Of note, this song was used to popularize Mr. Pibb Soda, in a Trailer Park Boys episode, and in American Dad – tell me it’s not still relevant!) When the members walked off to shouts and calls for more music, it was clear to everyone they weren’t done yet.  Back they came and finished the night with “Lager and Ale”: the perfect Friday night closer. All members were energized, high on their performance, and it was clear they were having fun.  Everyone appeared in good shape and good health, which is likely why they could put on such a stellar performance.

Kim attributes his and Peter’s 40-year musical ‘marriage’ to one simple concept: separate houses.  All I can say is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix what the Kim Mitchell Band has going for it: longevity. If it’s radio, touring and separate houses, do what you gotta do boys just keep it coming.