The always entertaining Big Sugar left the electric guitars at home for this tour, playing two sets of acoustic music at the West End Cultural Centre to a full house. It’s all part of their Acoustical Sounds tour.
The first song was entitled Calling All Youth, but young and old were there to enjoy the good vibes. Indeed, after the second song, singer Gordie Johnson could feel the enthusiasm in the room when he stated, “I just remembered why we record all our live albums in Winnipeg.”
West Coast Hobo in a Box Car Blues was the Grady offering of the evening. Grady being the band that Johnson recorded and toured with when Big Sugar took a break and members embarked on side projects between 2003 and 2010.
The amiable Mr. Johnson joked and talked with the audience, saying the theme of the tour is planes, trains and law enforcement. Earlier in the day, their tour bus was held up at the train crossing at Bishop Grandin Blvd. and Lakewood Blvd. when a car was hit by a train as it tried to cross the tracks.
He even made up an impromptu song about how he loves law enforcement and how they don’t love him because their dressing room smells like Cheech and Chong. It was a perfect segue for the next song, Freedom Train.
Johnson switched between banjo, acoustic guitar and dobro throughout the evening, while the other seven musicians backed him with acoustic bass, drums, percussion, djembe, woodwinds, saxophone, harmonica, melodica and saxophone.
Friendlyness got up and did a “rasta song,” Go Tell The World, and did some toasting (Jamaican style of rapping or dub). He gave the audience a melody to clap along to as he bounced up and down with his long dreadlocks swaying to and fro.
Big Sugar has adopted a village in Ethiopia named Jarso, and they have partnered with World Vision, signing up sponsors at every show to help the people of that village. Apparently, Winnipeg was equally as generous as the folks in Toronto, signing up just as many people.
Wild Ox Moan ended the first of two one hour sets.
After the intermission the singer said, “I hope you enjoyed your break ’cause it’s roots time now.”
Friendlyness helped out with the crowd pleaser, 100 Cigarettes, substituting cigarettes with ganja cigarettes.
Winnipeg got a nice little treat next when Mr. Johnson said, “We never planned this as a Yard Style (new album) song but really just because I was born in St. Boniface Hospital …” as the band started playing BTO’s Let It Ride. Mr. Chill played a very cool saxophone and harmonica along with this one. Throughout the evening he also added some very nice harmonica playing to some of the other tunes.
Two of the favourites of the evening were Turn The Lights On and Diggin’ A Hole, which the audience was truly digging as they sang along.
The whole band came out to the lobby and signed albums (yes, they were selling vinyl), posters and CD’s. They hung out for quite a while after the show talking with and posing for photos with their fans.
Another fine show presented by the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
Didn’t need any drink, smoke or even Sugar In My Coffee that evening. Just got pumped up and high from the sweet sounds of Big Sugar … Acoustically.
All photos by Doug Kretchmer
SET 1 SET 2
Calling All Youth Still Waiting
Heart Refuse To Pound Sleep In Late
Little Bit A Alright/ Kensington 100 Cigarettes
West Coast Hobo In A Boxcar Blues Joe Louis
Freedom Train Let It Ride (BTO cover)
Capitola Stress (new) Kicking Stones
Revolution Per Minute All Hell For Basement
I Want You Now Turn The Lights On
Go Tell The World ENCORE
Wild Ox Moan Sugar In My Coffee
(intermission) Diggin’ A Hole