One moment he’s crooning poignant lyrics at the piano while bathed in white light, the next he’s battling a cranky old lady (really a bearded roadie in a wig and flowered dress).
Hedley’s Jacob Hoggard took some 4,500 Central Alberta fans on a wild — and rather capricious — ride Sunday night at Red Deer’s Centrium.
It was one of last concerts of the pop band’s exhaustive, cross-country Wild Life tour, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the group’s full-tilt energy level. Hedley came on like a whirlwind with a blinding light show and performance of the mega-hit Anything — complete with raunchy snippets from the hedonistic music video.
Hoggard got most of the young audience up on its feet, waving arms in the air from the get-go. Sporting a camouflage jacket, he stood briefly, hands on hips, before going into hyper-kinetic overdrive. Hoggard encouraged cheers and pulled off athletic dance moves, such as kicking a foot up and spinning dervish-like on one leg.
The wiry singer didn’t appear to have an off switch. He launched into One Life while busily strutting the length of the stage in the manner of a frenetic Loony Tunes character.
“I need you to scream!” he commanded, and the audience enthusiastically obliged.
During drummer Chris Crippin’s machine-gun-like intro to I’ll Be With You, Hoggard was seen lying on his back, feet up in the air like an overturned beetle. “If I don’t lose my mind, I’ll be with you,” he sang when upright again. And dozens of fans waved their light wands in approval.
The irate bearded granny came on stage threatening Hoggard and bassist Tommy Mac with a cane during Don’t Talk to Strangers. It was definitely a non sequitur.
The mood took another sharp turn when vintage seaside images accompanied a reflective new song called Dreaming’s For Sleeping.
Guitarist Dave Rosin came downstage to help Hoggard greet fans before things slowed down even more: the singer took a spotlight turn at the piano to croon Invincible. This was followed by his over-the-top rendering of All The Way, with steam jets going off for a Big Finish.
After a brief comic video-filled intermission, the musicians appeared on a satellite stage in the middle of the audience, dressed as a 1960s boy group in matching black jackets. “Chaps, I have a grand idea: let’s play a road trip song, why don’t we?” said Hoggard before striking up Heaven in Our Headlights.
For the Nights I Can’t Remember also got the torchy treatment, with glittery disco ball casting a flurry of lights around the arena. More of the same was delivered for Wild Life — and that’s when things nearly ground to a crawl.
Aside from the falsetto whimsy of Crazy for You and a rousing, real-action cheerleading demo (go girls!) during Cha-Ching, the second half of the concert suffered from too many slow numbers — too much of Hoggard alone at the piano, not enough of the Vancouver-based band.
Another what-the-heck? moment also cropped up when the singer affected a cornpone accent to muse about living on a farm near Red Deer with a couple of wives.
Hoggard, who did a medley of Perfect and Rihanna’s Stay, was more amusing when he forgot some lyrics and quipped, “At least I’m not lip-synching!”
Hedley’s encore included Kiss You Inside Out, and the sweet, simple Sweater Song. The latter proved that Hoggard’s colourful voice can be most affecting when he isn’t overstretching the theatrics.
The concert ended positively, with Hoggard promising to come visit again and the audience responding with a deafening roar.
The crowd was also supportive of the evening’s opening acts. East Coast rapper Classified, assisted by a DJ, musicians and hip-hop artist Mike Boyd, performed a tongue-in-cheek tribute medley to 1990s rap (including some Wu-Tang Clan numbers and “old Jay-Z’s” Hard-Knock Life).
“It’s the kind of music I grew up with,” said Classified, who also pulled off versions of his own tunes, That Ain’t Classy, Inner Ninja and O Canada.
USS (Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker) are a lively Toronto duo with a chart-topping single, This is the Best. One of the musicians managed something I’ve never seen before. He jumped up and down on stage while also banging a tambourine against his head — an original move that was also surprisingly entertaining.