Shhh! Don’t anyone tell the Canadian Country Music Association, but Johnny Reid came on stage in Red Deer without a cowboy hat on Wednesday night.
The CCMA’s Top Male Artist of the Year poured his heart into some bluesy and light rock numbers. After strutting his stuff to a largely adult contemporary repertoire, Reid finally threw in a couple of twangy tunes, for good measure — but let’s face it, Reid is as much a county artist as is Rod Stewart or Tom Jones.
And that’s hardly a knock against the guy.
All of Reid’s musical interludes were absolutely A-OK with me and the 2,700 fans who saw his concert at the Centrium, judging by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the Scottish-born singer. He entertained the all-ages crowd with a slew of hits and even delivered a preview of a nostalgic song that hasn’t been recorded yet, called What Used to Be, about his boyhood home. (So what if this song isn’t remotely country? We’ll keep Reid’s secret, since he’s such a stand-up, entertaining kind of fella.)
The artist performed with a talented eight-person band, including two saucy female backup singers — referred to as the “soul sisters” — and made a grand first impression with Which Way is Home?
Reid danced around stage with his dark suit, red tie and some blindly white shoes, then launched into his popular A Woman Like You and Old Flame, a song about a new start with an old love, from his award-winning Dance With Me album.
Before crooning about loneliness on Brings Me Home, Reid mentioned how the meaning of a certain word changed over the years. “Home used to be a place I’d run to after school . . . when I was a teenager, home was where I ran away from . . . after I married and had children, home is where my heart is.”
It figures that home is a reoccurring topic for a songwriter who was born in one country, entered adulthood in another (Canada), and is now living in a third (the U.S.).
But not all of Reid’s stage banter was so sentimental. In one of the evening’s lighter moments, Reid explained why people of his colouring don’t belong in Jamaica.
“Can you smell the sea? Can you see me in a Speedo?” he quipped in his heavy brogue, after explaining he was one of those guys other tourists pointed at because he’d refused to wear sunblock. That became the intro for the atmospheric Moon To Remember, about his Jamaican trip.
Besides having a richly resonant voice, Reid has a genuine and affable stage presence that’s won him a loyal following among his ‘tartan army’ of fans.
The singer easily got the crowd clapping along, waving arms in the air, and swaying in the aisles during his rendition of Feeling Alright Today.
During the song Love Sweet Love, he wandered into the audience, danced with a blond pony-tailed tot, and touched a lot of palms.
But he was more affecting when he slowed things down to deliver heart-rending songs such as Missing An Angel, and the torchy favorite, Dance with Me, about remembering to connect with loved ones at the end of the day.
I suppose if one has to pigeonhole Reid, then maybe ‘country’ works as well as anything else. But in fact, this singer is much more.
One More Girl, comprised of Canadian sisters Carly and Britt McKillip, opened the concert with some interesting harmonies. The McKillips proved they can belt out loud, angry missives such as Misery Loves Company and You’re Not Mine. But it was nicer to hear them perform the less strident I Can Love Anyone, which showed a more sensitive side.