If you missed it, check out Part 1 of the photos and words here.
Circling right back to the start, next up was another Odds set, but before long, singer Craig Northey invited out a surprise guest, a friend of his who “can play guitar,” mister Colin James. This blues and rock master had just completed a cross-Canada tour a couple weeks earlier, which we also caught the Vancouver date of, and had come from a Kelowna show the day before. He played a few of his hits, and while that was all well and good, things really started to get interesting here as partway through, movement in the shadows at the back of the stage caught my eye. It was none other than Kirk McLean, hilariously lurking about as if trying to remain invisible, holding something dark in one hand. He crept around behind Pat Steward (yes, he was still drumming) and then doubled back and plucked a drumstick from Steward’s collection onstage, much to his apparent surprise. Satisfied, McLean confidently strutted forth on the stage, hammering on the mystery object which he was now holding aloft – a cowbell. You couldn’t crowbar the guy off the stage for the rest of the show. He crashed in on vocals, bringing James to gales of laughter, and played that cowbell like there was no damn tomorrow. This is truly something I never thought I would witness, most certainly not something the teenage hockey fan in me could have possibly envisioned. He hijacked this ending and thoroughly stole the show as a result.
James left the stage after his few songs, but the show continued with a sort of all-in finale that included Odds songs as well as a Toby Keith number. Pat Steward unofficially introduced this final segment as he emerged finally from behind the drum kit to get the crowd excited again. He said he’d noticed things getting a bit quiet, so he led the room in some boisterous cheering in his animated fashion. The guy is tireless, unassuming, talented and a total pillar of the Vancouver music scene. I’ve lost track of how many bands he takes on drum duties for in Vancouver, and on a night like this where he literally doesn’t take a break, just playing drums for two hours, shows what a powerhouse he is. Everyone here is super proud, warm and fuzzy watching him two nights later pounding the skins behind Bryan Adams at the Juno Awards, back around the block again after 30+ years. Amazing and well-deserved. Tonight, other members of the Canucks alumni drifted out from either side of the stage to sing backing and/or gang vocals, including Ronning, no stranger to the stage in a rather music-inclined family, who urged others out from the wings to join him. McIlhargey came out to join him at a main mic, as well as Garth Butcher, reading lyrics to Keith’s “As Good As I Once Was” off a sheet (helpfully with Garth Butcher written down the side in red marker) being held by Pritchett as he and Brownlee also came out to join in the fun. Eventually Pritchett found another cowbell, and he and McLean went off in their own little cowbell-laden world, that is when McLean wasn’t arm-in-arm or cowbelling alongside pretty much everyone on stage who he visited sooner or later. He could be seen sharing laughs with Odds keyboard/guitarist Murray Atkinson (who, by the way, also stayed on board for guitar/keys duties with all the performers tonight) or with Steward at the back. As the music drew to a close for the night, there was a round-robin of people thanking other people replete with lots of pointing and knowing looks, lots of hugs, handshakes and high-fives. It was a pretty sweet evening, capped off by about 20 minutes of breezy socializing. Much of the crowd filed out immediately after the music, but some of the musicians and hockey players coalesced on the open floor of the theater to chat with friends and fans. Pritchett was all but lost in a cluster of people looking for photos, and Ronning donned a smart suit jacket before taking a round of the floor to chat with folks. It was, all told, an incredible fun-filled night, and with its success, looks like JRFM will be aiming to make this an annual event. I’m already looking froward to the next one!