Watching Corb Lund in western Canada is an amazing experience, not just because of the uniqueness of the band, but also because of the level of connection with the audience. Canadians, especially western Canadians, find they have few voices as they are bombarded by wave after wave of American imports in every genre. Corb Lund is a band that speaks to something deeper in western Canadians than any imported American shows, especially to those who still love to put on their boots to go out on a Saturday night.
Anyone who has any appreciation for the lost art of musical ballads will find a new home in Corb Lund’s music. In an age when ‘country music’ has become a country-toned version of today’s slick pop music, Corb’s music speaks to the spirit of the west. It’s the kind of music that brings pubs and bars alive, which speaks to winning and losing in the authentic voice of those who have lived it. That authenticity is why its appeal goes well beyond a Stetson hatted audience, finding a passionate audience that includes urban indie lovers just as much as those that travel from the city’s outlying agrarian communities. It’s not a high gloss show that relies on lights and distraction; it’s a concert that is intensely about connection between Corb and the audience as individuals, an experience you’re not going to have the next time Keith Urban and Faith Hill come to town.
I won’t lie, I didn’t like the opening act. Ridley Bent spent his time trying to connect to the audience by spending most of time talking about pot and booze in an attempt to connect to his audience in a way that only came off as ‘trying too hard”. The music was mediocre, and on the whole he couldn’t come close to speaking to the same spirit that Corb Lund does. I was relieved when the lights came back up and the house music returned to playing “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”.
Next came another wait and a growing angst among the crowd. It was over three hours from doors opening till Corb Lund came on the show, although I’m not sure if that was unique to some difficulty of this particular show or is the regular motis operandi of Corb Lund’s concerts. Regardless, all was soon forgotten when the lights dimmed again and the band started into Hair in My Eyes like a Highland Steer, followed by The Roughest Neck Around. The upbeat intro set a mood that carried right into the encore, resulting in an upbeat concert that breathed energy into the Commodore even when sombre songs were being played. The band all pulled their weight. Kurt Ciesla on upright bass, Brady Valgardson on drums, and Grant Siemens as lead guitar were all fantastic, and Corb wasn’t afraid to let each of them shine on their own from time to time.
The acoustics were fantastic, and I was happy I was watching them in a setting intimate enough that allowed me to soak in not only the music but the excitement of the crowd. The intensity and appreciation of the crowd in the Commodore set the mood as much as the music, the collective joy when the long wait was finally over could be tangibly felt in the atmosphere. Of course, there were girlfriends and boyfriends, husbands and wives, that had been dragged along and didn’t quite get it. But for those who were there because they loved the band, the experience bordered on an experience of kinship.
If you’re a fan, you don’t need to worry about a live experience with Corb Lund dampening your appreciation. In a world of overproduced artists, seeing Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans live provides nothing but a purer appreciation of the music. The vocals are as good if not better than on the CDs, the songs retain their spirit, and the crowd only helps. If you like the music, go to a concert, it’s an amazing experience and it will breathe new life and appreciation into Corb Lund’s music for you.