Kelowna Community Theatre
October 19, 2011
Photos: Donna Mair
Tall, ruggedly handsome, somewhat quiet and solid as a rock is how I would have described Canadian Country artist George Canyon up till a few days ago. And he is all those -nearly. But I sensed a dry wry sense of humor lurking below the surface as I sat in his show the other night at the Kelowna Community Theatre.
A few songs in, George spoke to the audience and introduced local Vernon boy, Mike Little, who came out front with an accordion … the same accordian that belonged to the late John Cascella, the accordian player for John Mellencamp. As Mike tuned it up, George told us that John's widow wanted it to be played, and it ended up in Mike's hands – and how this one accordion was unique – even if you bought the same brand and model it would not sound the same, and Mike launched in to Mellencamp's Little ‘Pink Houses’ with Vancouver guitarist Jay Buettner singing the main vocal.
A few more songs in George tells us about writing the next one, ‘Surrender’, with Richard Marx, says it has a very 70;s feel to it at which point the old skool guitar twang from Buettner cuts him off, and its apparent that it's done in fun to get Canyon's goat, as evidenced by Canyon's smile amid the opening vocals.
George pauses again briefly to introduce the remainder of his band: Chris Byrne from the original Road Hammers on bass , two time CCMA Fiddle Player of the Year winner, Shane Guse, and Adam Dowling on drums. He also talks a bit about himself – that he's been a Type 1 Diabetic for 14 yrs and has been using the Insulin Pump for many years; calls it a life saver that has allowed him to live an almost normal life and urges anyone in the audience with diabetes to Google information on it. (He's also too humble to mention that he did a special meet and greet before the show with members of a local Diabetes group).
As George speaks to us between songs, its apparent that family is the most important thing in his life. He's unhurried, unstressed and smiles wryly when asking if anyone in the audience is named Betty. The next song is about his mother in law Betty he says, and ‘Betty's Buns ‘is a fun song chock full of double entendres that fires the audience up a notch.
‘When Love is All You’ve Got’ segues into one last address to the audience, and he asks if we know why the band needs to take an intermission – then blames it on Buettner's forgetting his Bass Pro hat in the bus – but really he says, 'it’s because we're all getting older and our bladders won’t hold for a 90 minute set.' The deadpan in his voice belies the sparkle in his eyes and that wry humor pokes out again. ‘I Believe in Angels’ rounds out the first set.
The second set starts out acoustic and sees more country Canyon goodness, finishing up with a two song encore; Folsom and I Want You to Live. Opening act, Ryan Laird deserves mention here. He's a total entertainer who knows how to keep an audience engaged and excited. With his unique vitality and commanding stage presence, he takes us along for the ride with his story telling brand of songs.
His tunes are snappy, hooky and make you want to move (even in your seat).Laird is a good musician as well as a good songwriter – he plays his solo guitar like a pro and makes more sound from one instrument (often banging and tapping on it like a percussion instrument) in between strums. Laird too talks to the audience between songs, giving little details about the song itself or about his trip so far with George Canyon (at one point joking that Canyon is treating him like gold, except for the bit about wanting his toenails clipped – and then joking about how he might not have a job if George is listening).
Laird tells us near the end of the set that he was going to try a new song but decided not to as he can’t quite remember the lyrics- at which point a very loud very vocal audience member yells out 'play it anyway'. Laird launches into the song, forgets the lyrics, drops his guitar pick, starts laughing, and has the audience laughing as he finishes up the new tune. Ending his 6 song set with ‘Tennesse Waltz’, the audience shows their appreciation with good applause, and seeking Laird out in the Lobby after his set to have him sign things and buy merch.
You can follow Donna on her website, nightMair Creative.