Two nights ago I attended the best concert I’ve ever seen/heard in my entire life. I’m not exaggerating one bit. It was a 7 hour drive from Cape Cod to Montreal-a long and tiring ride. It was 5pm by the time I reached the hotel, and the show was scheduled to begin at 7:30pm. I only had time to get settled in my room and change my clothes. After a quick cab ride to Places des Arts, there was still a little time to kill, so we went to Baton Rouge for a drink.
I was fortunate enough to have a 2nd row seat for this show, and I’m so grateful for that fact. I had a perfect view of the man I’d traveled so far to see. The theater is beautiful–a great venue for this show. Promptly at 7:30pm, the lights dimmed and Doug Paisley came out on stage with his guitar. I noticed that behind him, on bass, was Basil Donovan. Basil plays bass for Blue Rodeo and the Jim Cuddy Band. I, of course, will always remember him sitting in front of me on my flight from Halifax to Toronto last summer. Doug played a great set, and I really enjoyed listening to him. I’m usually pretty impatient when it comes to opening acts, and seriously, how often are the openers actually that good? This time, he really was that good.
Finally the time came for the main show…the man I’d been waiting to see and hear. The man I never thought I’d get to see play live in concert. I felt my breath catch in my throat as I watched him just quietly walk out onto the stage with his band. The lights came up, and the audience went crazy. He smiled that big smile of his and waved and said hello to all of us, and went straight to work. I still can’t believe how good he sounded. Every note, every word was perfection. I watched him play his guitar, watching his fingers form the chords, trying to learn the chords to some of his new songs. I watched his face, as he smiled at various people in the front row, and at other members of his band. He was truly enjoying himself. He showed no signs of nervousness, no hesitation, no weariness. Between songs, Jim joked with the audience, or gave some background of the song he was about to play. He is quite charming and down to earth, which only made the concert more enjoyable.
I was happy to be able to hear my favorite songs performed live, right in front of me–Ready to Fall was heart wrenching, Five Days in May was just amazing, thanks to Ann’s fiddle solo. One of the best parts of the show was when the rest of the band left the stage, and Jim sat at the piano alone to do “Pull Me Through”. That is an emotionally charged song written for his Uncle after losing his wife and constant companion of 60-something years. You could have heard a pin drop.
The band returned to the stage for the encore. The very last song of the night was an incredible, totally unplugged version of Wash Me Down, performed while standing at the very edge of the stage-up close and personal. Jim’s voice sounded beautiful-it’s even better without a microphone. He just sang out, his voice washing over us all. He would hit certain notes and I’d feel a shiver go up my spine. I just wanted him to keep singing like that…just keep singing…
But it was over much too quickly. I could have listened to him for easily another hour or two. I never get tired of that voice, or of those songs. But the show was over, and it was time to go. For me, however, the night was about to get even better.
I think I’ll leave this post as a mini concert review. The show was wonderful, easily the best concert I’ve ever been to. It turned out to be a night I will never, ever forget. The rest of the night will remain unwritten, because as they say…what happens in Montreal stays in Montreal. What? They don’t say that? Well…I’m saying it.