Corb Lund got a homecoming hero’s welcome in Red Deer on Tuesday after first winding through Texas, Georgia, Virginia, New York, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario.
“It’s good to be home!” exclaimed the Alberta alt-country singer, who performed with his four-piece Hurtin’ Albertans band at the Centrium in the home-stretch of an exhaustive 12-week tour.
“Now that we’re home, it feels fantastic,” added Lund — and 1,500 Red Deer exuberant fans couldn’t have agreed more.
“I love you Corb!” screamed a macho-looking audience member in a cowboy hat — a sentiment he then fervently repeated throughout the evening.
In times past, the theatrical Lund might have wowed the crowd by showing up in a striking red cavalry uniform, complete with theatrical pith helmet and sword, like some kind of country, non-pirate version of Adam Ant.
He might have even gotten a flashy drum-line going.
This time he appeared mostly as himself, in a cowboy hat and a black jacket with subdued lapel sparkles. It was more than enough to keep fans happy — especially after Lund launched into his crowd-pleasing hit Hair in my Eyes Like a Highland Steer and followed it up with his humorous homage to bad handymen everywhere, Hard on the Equipment.
Standing squarely in front of the mic, he didn’t do any strutting and still managed to command the stage and keep folks enthralled with his tongue and cheek delivery of All I Want to Do is Play Cards — a song that required trading an acoustic for an electric guitar.
Lund delivered the antidote to that tune on the title track of his latest album, Losin Lately Gambler. “It’s what happens when all you want to do is play cards,” he joked.
His seriously talented band, the Hurtin’ Albertans, were also in top form, performing sizzling solos on the stand-up bass, mean drum rhythms and slide guitar and banjo melodies.
Lund put out the call, Anyone here from Saskatoon?” By the time he got to “Moose Jaw?” the room rang with cheers. Lund took that as a cue to launch into his new song called Long Gone to Saskatchewan, which lightly takes people from our neighbouring province to task for making a buck in Alberta, then high-tailing it back home. The tune got the first couple two-stepping.
By the time Lund made his way through such favorites as Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!, I Want to be in the Cavalry, and Little Foothills Heaven, there were a dozen two-steppers visible.
Several of his new tunes seem destined to be hits, such as Devil’s Best Dress, about a female outlaw — which Lund wrote as a tip of the hat to Marty Robbins — and the eerie and poignant This is My Prairie, about a man who’s prepared to resort to violence to protect his land from industry.
More eerie still were the shrill cries of support this song received from a sizable group of audience members before it was even over.
Not since Ian Tyson has a singer resonated so well in this province — or better immortalized Alberta’s wonders in song.
Lund admitted he’s thrilled “to make a go of it singing songs about Alberta . . . I tell Texans to come visit us, only to wait until the exchange rate is better,” he joked.
Alberta couldn’t ask for a better export, or ambassador, than Lund, who didn’t strike a false note with Tuesday’s crowd and was asked back for an encore.
Award-winning singer Ridley Bent opened the show and proved he deserves to be the next big thing in Canadian country music.
The Halifax born, Alberta-bred performer, who now lives in Vancouver, once aimed to be a professional skier, but luckily, became a musician instead. His unique mix of country, hip-hop and funk seemlessly blends urban and rural sensibilities.
Bent also knows how to tell a good tall tale, as evident on his song Suicidewinder — and shows a wicked humour on the country-boy-meets-rocker-girl song Nine Inch Nails.
Maybe Bent will become Canada’s outlaw country musician. I hope we’re not too nice a nation to have one of those.