It wasn’t Canada Day on Saturday night — but it might as well have been.
Country singer Dean Brody wasn’t shy about wearing his patriotism on his sleeve and waving the red and white for more than 3,200 of his fervent fans during Westerner Days at Red Deer’s Centrium.
Not only did Brody prompt an audience singalong of O Canada, he preceded the anthem with his heart-felt Brothers, a choke-you-up tune about saying goodbye to a Canadian soldier.
Then he wrapped up with his No. 1 hit, Canadian Girls, in praise of outdoorsy women who can fish, skate and appreciate hockey.
The audience went nuts for the 37-year-old Nova Scotia resident, who came across as an affable guy in sunglasses, check shirt and cowboy hat.
His stage presence was laid-back, occasionally to the point of languidness.
But just when you thought he’d stand with his guitar forever, Brody would do a little jig, or bounce up and down to shake things up a bit.
When the wild and crazies really struck, he’d walk along the aisles, shaking hand with his mostly young fans — a few of whom would hand him things and wave signs of adoration.
“I’ve seen the Canadian flag in a bunch of cool places,” said Brody, who explained that some were less appropriate than others (one involved a drunken woman wearing a Canadian flag bikini that rode up her backside).
“Nothing makes me prouder than when I see (the flag) on a uniform,” he added — “especially on a soldier fighting for our country overseas. ”
The audience applause to this statement was deafening — indicating that Brody clearly knows his crowd.
Saturday night’s concert evoked a lot of sentimental country imagery — from front porches and picnics in apple orchards, to listening to grandma’s advice by the river bank.
There were lots of songs about driving along dirt roads — and even a song called Dirt.
It all might have come across as cloying and contrived if not for Brody’s earnestness and likability.
In his intro to his moving song Trail in Life, the singer spoke about the regret all of us feel at some point for friendships or romances that felt like they would last forever, but are now history.
Brody mentioned college buddies he hadn’t seen in years and his first girlfriend who vanished into past. “I hope she’s doin’ good . . . ”
While it’s been famously said that life is more about the journey than the destination, he added, most of the journey involves “the people we travel that road with.” He dedicated Trail in Life to old friends.
Body went on to perform a series of poignant tunes, along with his talented four-piece band, including Underneath the Apple Trees, about being hopeful about finding love, Bob Marley, about staying cool, and The Porch, about seeking forgiveness after a romantic blow-out.
The B.C.-born singer admitted he was having a hard time being upbeat, since he buried his dog Boo just three days ago. “These little four-legged little creatures get a part of your heart and don’t let go.”
“I love you!” shouted a supportive fan, prompting a smiling Brody to respond, “I love you too!”
He managed to quicken the tempo for light-hearted covers of Tom Petty’s Yer So Bad and Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds (Don’t Worry).
And Brody delivered rousing renditions of his rollicking Maritime-flavoured hit, It’s Friday, and his tongue-in-cheek comical ditty That’s Your Cousin, about “not swimming in the same gene pool.”
His energetic Roll That Barrel tune got Brody stomping his foot to the beat. And fans sang along to Dirt Road Scholar and Little Yellow Blanket, and tapped their toes to People Know You By Your First Name.
By the time Brody ended the concert with his encore performance of Nowhere U.S.A., a few audience members had been step dancing at the back of the Centrium.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t think he had much ‘upbeat’ in him.