Big Wreck’s Strung Out

Ambitious rockers get orchestral


Big Wreck, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Uzume Taiko and Cirque Eloize at Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe), Saturday (October 6). $30-$38. 416-872-4255. Rating: NNNNN


many young boys across the na- tion hole up in their bedrooms with their guitars every night to daydream about rock-star days to come. Some anticipate the courting of supermodels or the globalization of their musical message of peace and love, while others dream of working with big producers.

But come on. How many aspire to play their soulful, heartfelt tunes with a symphony orchestra? Big Wreck’s Ian Thornley (lead guitar, vocals) declares he never did. So how did his band get hooked up with the Toronto Symphony?

“The du Maurier Concert Stage people asked us to do it,” says Thornley from Peterborough, referring to their sold-out show at Roy Thomson Hall this Saturday.

“We’d already done it in Edmonton, with members of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the drummers, but the acrobats are new.”

On the subject of tobacco sponsorship, Thornley touts the party line, if half-jokingly hemming and hawing a bit before claiming, “We love du Maurier products.”

Aside from the death wheeze the sponsors are retailing, the extravaganza — orchestra, a Japanese drum ensemble and acrobats from Montreal’s Cirque Eloize — sounds like something you’d expect from Björk, or bigger bands like Metallica.

“I’m not really a Metallica fan — not at all, actually — and what we’re doing is really pretty different,” says Thornley. What a relief. For me, James Hetfield singing with an orchestra was the grossest musical sacrilege ever.

Among others participating in the Big Wreck all-you-can-hear-and-see spectacular are the Tragically Hip’s Paul Langlois and Robby Baker.

Three and a half years after Big Wreck’s first release with Warner, In Loving Memory Of, the three Americans and one Canadian (Thornley) have released their follow-up album, The Pleasure And The Greed.

It’s producer-polished classic rock with tints of glam, but fails to break any new ground. And Thornley sounds like Chris Cornell. They’re as Can-rock as you can get, with battling guitars and mildly aggressive vocals. What sets them apart are their arrangements.

“The record company gave us a list of big-name producers we could work with so we’d be massive,” says Thornley. “We picked Dave Jerden because he worked with Jane’s Addiction and Alice in Chains.”

I try to get Thornley to admit that he, as much as his record company, wants him to be a rock star, but he won’t cooperate.

“I don’t want to be a rock star, and not because I’m too cool. I’m a musician.”

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