I Mother Earth has returned! One of the defining bands of the mid-to-late-90s CanRock explosion is taking another kick at the can, and were in fine form at the Commodore Ballroom. This show had initially been scheduled for much earlier in the year, and ended up being cancelled and rescheduled for a later date, as the band had another trick up its sleeve. In their comeback over the last few years, they had been playing shows with Brian Byrne singing, the man who took over vocal duties circa 1998/99. Byrne however has departed for a couple reasons (apparently trying out for Stone Temple Pilots…!), and instead, the group reconciled whatever creative differences it had with original singer Edwin and brought him back into the fold to rehearse their classic material. So, they did away with their swimmier songs from the Byrne era, and instead, played their heavier, major hit album Scenery and Fish in its entirety, in the album’s tracklisting order.
It was amazing.
Scenery and Fish came out at a time when the internet was still a really new thing, but I remember being on web forums and chatrooms talking about them even then. Still CDs were king though, and that album ended up double platinum, even cracking pretty high on US charts. They knew what the people wanted by putting this tour together. Celebrating the album’s 20th anniversary was a solid move on their part, and the audience in the room was hungry for a visit back to their own youth. Memories of muddy, sweaty EDGEfest concerts and ultra-saturated trippy videos of the era came flooding back to me, certainly, and surely many others in the room. While we were missing the element of Bruce Gordon on bass (now a position held by The Salads’ Chuck Dailey), the rest of them were there, with a bit less flying hair/dreadlocks and bleach than before, but with the same amount of high-leaping prowess that we know them for. Even situated behind an impressive pile of Latin percussion instruments was Daniel Mansilla, who has held this role with the band since 1996 as well. I totally respect Brian Byrne and loved his country-kissed solo work as well as the time he spent with this band, but man, there is nothing like Edwin on vocals. A total powerhouse and built like a brick wall (now silver-haired instead of bleached blonde, but still sporting a romance-novel-cover chiselled jaw), you’d have no idea the man spent any time not being part of this unit.
It was a few songs in (after intense screaming and jumping by the ecstatic audience through the first few songs, which contain the biggest hits from the album, “One More Astronaut” and “Another Sunday”) before Edwin addressed the crowd, saying, “We’ve played a million shows in our lives… at least it feels like a million… but you fuckers got us nervous tonight. I think it’s because you matter so much. Let me say this – we fucking love you!” The crowd of… well, people my age… 30-40-somethings who were enthusiastic, subversive teens at the time, and many of whom are now responsible parents who might have kids of their own who are approaching the age they were when they were slogging it jammed into a barricade post for hours at a Canadian music festival watching these guys, were just losing their shit. People were enjoying their drinks, bouncing all over, snogging like teenagers, and wearing a lot of 90s-style items. Camo, cargos, chokers, spiky cuffs, baseball tees, sweaty girls in bras holding their shirts in their hands, and even a few vintage IME tees were spotting in the crowd. Between songs, you could hear people hollering out things like, “Chris [Tanna, drummer], you rock my fucking world!” Before the set even started, some folks were busy chanting the names of some of the stage techs who were setting up, who had their names prominently displayed on their radios.
IME is oft-considered a jam band, and they displayed these skills here tonight. The Scenery and Fish album is just over an hour in length, and this set they managed to stretch out to nearly two (including the encore though) with all their intense canoodling to pad out the songs. Much of this was by way of Mansilla’s Latin percussion and guitarist Jag Tanna, who was still as bouncy as ever and pulling so serious guitar faces. Edwin even left the stage entirely during some of these jams, and during others, would grab a rain stick or some other percussion piece from the drum riser and shake shake shake. One of the things that was always so ear-catching about them is that they were pretty unique in the Canadian music landscape at the time. With the combination of face-smashing heavy thrumming bass, big drums and bigger guitars, the mellow jam-outs, and the Latin element, plus the flowery lyrics, they were good at catching peoples’ attention.
Edwin spoke again half way through the set. “It’s time to flip the record over…. We love you – you are an awesome, vocal audience and you know all the words… but we really came for the sushi. I love sushi. I just shouldn’t have eaten it right before the show.” He went on to discuss the Wold Vision initiative the band stands behind, to provide water to those in developing countries, and invited the audience to visit the booth at the back of the room to see how they could help out. The set then carried on. They are masters of the soft bridge to a raging outro, and Edwin emphasized this most prominently during “Raspberry” by crouching low on the stage during the post-jam, ultra-soft ending bridge, almost just letting the audience take the vocal, as you could certainly hear them over him. Then he leapt to his feet during the vocal pulling me, where the whole band kicks back into heavy high gear. The crowd jumped along with him. At the very end of the set, Jag Tanna held his guitar int he air and Edwin held both arms up with a cheeky, happy grin, as if he’d just landed some major gymnastics routine. The whole effect was a very pleased ‘we did it’ sort of look.
They left the stage briefly, and then came out to do a quick encore of some of their bigger hits from their earlier album, Dig. Dig was much heavier, and the songs showed off Edwin’s gravelly voice to great effect. He held the mic over the crowd to have them sing, Jag Tanna was back on the shocks, sproinging around his side of the stage, and Dailey held his bass guitar up like a shotgun. They ended off giving us a round of applause, got together at the front of the stage for a bow, and then turned to, presumably, get a photo with the crowd in the background. And that was that! I think it’s safe to say the audience here had a good time tonight. I for one am pleased the Tannas and Edwin buried whatever hatchet they had – time heals all wounds perhaps – and got back together to give us this gift of music and memories.