Forty-two years after debuting, April Wine is still a potent brew — especially for the legion of fans who grew up with You Won’t Dance With Me, Oowatanite, Roller and litany of other radio-friendly ’70s hits.
When asked what keeps the band going some 18 albums and thousands of concerts after the group’s original members first relocated from Halifax to Montreal in 1970, founding member and frontman Myles Goodwyn gets a little philosophical.
“An artist needs to paint, a musician needs to play,” said Goodwyn, who noted his band isn’t the only one continuing to perform and write new music towards the half-century mark.
“There’s the Eagles, and I’ve seen Paul McCartney the last time he came to Montreal. . . . (You) perform partly because of ego and also because there’s fun and excitement to it.”
Simply speaking, musicians thrive in front of an audience, added Goodwyn, whose group is embarking on a tour that stops at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre on Monday, April 2.
Besides Goodwyn, April Wine also features guitarist Brian Greenway, who’s played with band off and on since 1977, as well as more recent additions, drummer Blair Mackay and bassist Richard Lanthier.
If you don’t count Canada’s seven prime ministers since Pierre Trudeau, the dramatic increase in house prices and average incomes, or the ups and downs of the Canadian dollar, Goodwyn believes only a few essential things have changed since April Wine first began touring.
“We don’t do bars anymore — we don’t want to do that to our fans,” he said, referring to the notorious late-night starts of musical acts in taverns.
April Wine still plays new music, as well as the nostalgic favourites longtime fans are waiting to hear. “We still make records that still do well. Our songs might not be played on Top 40 radio, but people can still hear them on the Internet and on adult contemporary stations,” said Goodwyn.
He quipped that his band doesn’t care if fans tend to favour old songs over new — “We play them anyway!” But the main difference between now and then, Goodwyn joked, is that instead of encountering young women who throw themselves at the band, “now they run away from us!”
In truth, April Wine is likely to have fans of both sexes approach to reminisce about the songs that made some kind of impact on their younger selves.
Goodwyn plans to deliver some of those tunes the way they were first written — with acoustic guitar accompaniment when he performs a solo opening set for the band at the Red Deer concert. “I’ll be playing some songs all stripped down and simple” because certain ballads just work better that way, he explained.
Not only does playing unplugged create a more personal, intimate connection with the audience, but listeners will hear the lyrics and sometimes interpret a song in a different way than when they heard it played on radio.
One of the acoustic ballads that Goodwyn will play will be a tribute to the band’s former bassist Jim Clench, who quit the group shortly before dying of lung cancer in 2010.
You Opened Up My Eyes is one of Clench’s more touching songs that the former bassist never wanted to perform live for some reason, said Goodwyn. “We might have (played it in concert) in the ‘70s, but it would have been a very, very long time ago.”
April Wine will deal with more ballads, such as Like a Lover, Like a Song and Come on Down and Talk to Me, when Goodwyn gets behind the keyboards later in the concert.
The singer, who’s the father of three, including two children working in the music industry, said he still enjoys playing the old songs as much as fans like hearing them. “I don’t think we’ve ever done anything that we don’t like. If it’s a pain, we won’t play it.”