We weren’t even supposed to be here tonight. I learned a few days ago that The Trews were playing a show advertised to start at 7:30, the exact time our flight was due at Billy Bishop Airport in downtown Toronto. But the stars lined up for us: an early landing, a hotel clerk who said “don’t worry, here’s your key, there’s a taxi outside, we’ll bring up your bags”, a mad taxi ride and a dash through the crowd to get to the Bandshell at the opposite end of the CNE main entrance. We missed the opening act The Lazys unfortunately, but arrived during The Trews’ opening number “Lotta Work/Little Love”, a new song from their upcoming compilation “Time Capsule” .
Another new song, “Beautiful and Tragic”, followed and then, to make sure they hooked in any casual fan that might be attending, they launched into their early hit “Not Ready to Go”. With that shot of adrenaline done, the band went straight into “So She’s Leaving” with John-Angus MacDonald ripping it up on his Les Paul, as usual, and his brother Colin leading the charge on vocals and rhythm guitar.
Most of the songs were given a new coat of paint with updates to their arrangements, and new drummer Gavin Maguire also put his stamp on the rhythm section with a noticeable change in the groove of many tracks. “Paranoid Freak” (with Colin singing the lyrics to Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” over the keyboard jam) and “Hope and Ruin” were next, followed by a version of the excellent “65 Roses” that featured the whole band more prominently than on the studio version. The added drums took away some of the song’s intimacy, yet it remained a poignant tribute to a departed friend.
Then came one of my favourites, the rocker “The Power of Positive Drinking”. “Sometimes you write a song for your friend and you end up coming across like an asshole” said Colin as introduction. “Love is the Real Thing” and “Tired of Waiting” were next, and the musicians exited the stage leaving Colin to sing a touching rendition of “Highway of Heroes” by himself.
Back to a full band, the guys played a pair of tracks from their self titled album then the concert favourite “Sing Your Heart Out”. This show was my 10 year old son’s first rock concert, and to stand there singing our hearts out along with the band made the evening even more magical. A frantic rendition of “Can’t Stop Laughing” was followed by the set closer “Poor Ol’ Hearted Me”, with an extended jam ending.
For the encore they played an excellent version of The Tragically Hip’s “Putting Down” before members of The Lazys joined them on stage for “Hold Me in Your Arms” (a song they covered on an early EP) and AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” to close the evening.
For me, it was great to see them on a stage bigger than my living room since they unfortunately usually play tiny venues in Montreal (What’s up with that Montreal?). What a great way to spend a Saturday night: the weather was perfect, the band was amazing, I was with my family… this is life at its best. A great concert from one of the best Canadian rock bands of all time.