SADIES-FEST at Lee's Palace, February 3. Tickets: $25. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
When I was watching The Last Waltz, and the Band was playing with peeps like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, I remember thinking to myself, "Dang, man, I wish I coulda been there, cuz that's some once-in-a-lifetime shit goin' on."
And, well, sigh, chances are I'll never get to witness something on such a grand scale. Luckily, we've got a little band in Toronto called the Sadies who, for two nights of live recording at Lee's , were able to pull together (and this is with as little hyperbole as possible) a straight-up impressive and varied roster of talent to help 'em out through a marathon celebration of their music.
Live, the band doesn't usually hit the stage and set it on fire right away. No sir, the Sadies' live show is something like slow-roasting pork, where after a period of second-guessing you realize it's going to be well worth the wait and just sit back and try to enjoy yourself over the clanking bottles and whoopin' and hollerin'.
But since this was their version of The Last Waltz, sans breakup, the night didn't unfold in the usual way. It would be ridiculous to go through things chronologically for the show's near three-hour duration, but just to give you an idea, gaunt, tall Good brothers Dallas and Travis wrangled up a decent chunk of their extended folk family for some old-timey spirituals complete with banjo solos and autoharp before Canadian legend and icon Garth Hudson joined them on piano and accordion.
Then Heavy Trash duo Jon Spencer and Matt Verta-Ray checked in, looking and sounding like a pair of rockabilly thugs from the 50s. Follow that up with members of the Deadly Snakes (with the Sadies as the night-long stage band) before the first intermission and you may understand why the night was slowly but surely creeping into spectacular territory.
We got Neko Case 's passionate delivery, Jayhawks singer Gary Louris doing his best Tom Petty, and Blue Rodeo 's Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy crooning and twanging with Rick White . Post-punk hero/Mekons founder Jon Langford had the best line of the night, saying of the Good brothers and their role in his revitalized career, "I needed a tall, skinny band, cuz I'm old, talentless and fat," and it all became clear: this, too, was a once-in-a-lifetime kinda thing.
Langford's comment, while self-deprecating, summed up what all the guest musicians repeated time and time again onstage: the Sadies are one helluva great band and, though fairly young, can deliver songs that run the gamut from gospel to surf and from rockabilly to bluesy rock and psychedelia. Seeing them all onstage, especially with their parents and uncles, was like being part of a celebration of a family's love for music and one another.
As for the audience, despite the heat and the noise and feeling like sardines, the Good brothers made us feel the love, too.