Blues Brothers still cool

Like blue cheese or a blue Ford Mustang, The Blues Brothers don’t spoil with age. Some 31 years after John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd first shook up the blues world and made R&B music cool for a new generation, their Jake and Elwood characters found their way to Red Deer.

Blaine Newton as Elwood

Blaine Newton as Elwood

Like blue cheese or a blue Ford Mustang, The Blues Brothers don’t spoil with age.

Some 31 years after John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd first shook up the blues world and made R&B music cool for a new generation, their Jake and Elwood characters found their way to Red Deer.

Sure, the two bad boys of blues were late stumbling into The Matchbox on Friday night to perform their local Case Full of Blues show before a sold-out audience.

But considering the passage of three decades involving the policies of Ronald Reagan, Brian Mulroney and George W. Bush, the free-living boys were little worse for wear.

Joliet Jake, portrayed by local actor Matt Dale, is still a wild man and his brother Elwood, played by Blaine Newton, is still an enigma. But put the two in front of microphones and an eight-piece band and, man, do they have soul.

Dale even bears an uncanny resemblance to the late Belushi, although he’s at least 100 pounds short of being the sweating, panting mass of pent-up energy that was Belushi’s hot-headed Jake Blues.

Rather than trying to copy Belushi, Dale focused on his character’s fancy footwork and on belting out songs like Soul Man, which really got the audience swaying and clapping.

Dale has a great R&B voice and well-timed delivery. By the time he was cruising through the crowd and singing his cheekily suggestive, I Don’t Know, no one was doing any more comparing. The Red Deer College student, who even threw in a few cartwheels, was Joliet Jake, right down to the tattooed fingers.

Newton, a seasoned community actor, managed to shuffle and kick in synch with the music and still retain his character’s detached cool, which is exactly what you’d expect from Elwood Blues.

His one word answers and his summing up of Canada as having the right “hot chicks to handguns ratio” were great scene stealers. And one of the concert’s most jaw-dropping moments is when Newton did Elwood’s Rubber Biscuit solo, consisting of nonsense words and one-liners.

Like Dale, Newton is a fantastic singer, having fine-tuned his voice in musical theatre. Both actors were more than primed to tackle such R&B hits as Flip, Flop, Fly, Gimme Some Lovin’, Sweet Home Chicago, and Everybody Needs Somebody.

Since the show’s premise is that Jake and Elwood are hiding from the law in Central Alberta, there were expected shenanigans involving cops and some unexpectedly comic ones involving our own mayor, Morris Flewwelling, making a cameo appearance in a video showing the arrival of the Blues Brothers to Red Deer.

But the main attraction was the music — which was amazing, thanks also to the gifted band: the show’s creators Dave Mousseau and Harley Hay on bass guitar and drums, Brad Miller on lead guitar, Jesse Hay and Dave Parfett on keyboards, Troy Davis on baritone sax, Lann Lieurance on tenor sax, and Gerald Ganson on trumpet.

Beyond that, The Blues Brothers remain a popular cultural phenomena because of the nostalgia factor.

It’s funny to associate Jake and Elwood with a simpler time. The Blues Brothers debuted on Saturday Night Live in 1978, only four years before Belushi died of a drug overdose. That time wasn’t nearly as innocent as the early 1960s when a lot of R&B music was created.

But through the distorted kaleidoscope of history, the late 1970s seem innocent enough.

And it was obvious the 110 fans who gave A Case Full of Blues a standing ovation would have loved to stay in that decade for an hour or two longer on Friday night.

Another sold-out show plays tonight.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com