Over the past four years, Mika has done her best to convert me into a Joel Plaskett fan. Luckily, it turns out that Joel Plaskett is pretty great, so this hasn't been a difficult undertaking for any of us. I saw him in concert for the first time a few... um... whiles ago. I can't check my old reviews at the moment; all I can tell you is it was prior to March 17, 2008. Regardless, I know I enjoyed the show thoroughly.
On the previous tour, Plaskett was touring in support of Ashtray Rock, his concept album about a high school rock band that gets split up by a love triangle. A new tour means a new album, and Plaskett was arguably more ambitious this time out with Three - a triple-album whose songs have titles like "Run, Run, Run," "Deny, Deny, Deny," and "Rewind, Rewind, Rewind." Mika bought it as soon as MapleMusic had it available, which was great, because it came bundled with concert tickets. That's how we wound up in the front row.
Needless to say, I didn't get around to actually listening to the album before the show.
For supper, we grabbed pitas from the one pita place in Saskatoon that still has competent staff. I am willing to say this despite their attempts at charging me for 17 bottles of water; I believe that was an honest computer error and also it was really funny. Supper was necessary, for the show was at the Broadway Theatre where they put real butter on your popcorn with a ladel. Best to eat first and remove the temptation. Besides, I'd feel rude eating popcorn at a concert when sitting front row, like I was being disrespectful or something. No idea why. It's not like I didn't eat chicken fingers during dozens of concerts back in the day.
The theatre was also selling alcohol and that was weird to see. Also amusing, since people were drinking red wine out of tiny plastic cups.
We got to the show with plenty of time to spare, having learned our lesson at the Bloc Party show (and also, we were afraid that there wasn't actually going to be assigned seating at the theatre and our front-row tickets would do us no good). We had lots of time to chat with Heather before the show and look at the stuff table. Didn't get anything.
The show was billed as Joel Plaskett and Family and Friends, so there was no sign of his usual band, the Emergency. Instead, the show was divided into sections; some with Ana Egge and Rose Cousins on backing vocals and various instruments, some with his father Bill Plaskett on guitar and backing vocals, some with Joel by himself, and some with all four folks. Each of the guest musicians got a chance to sing one of their own songs as well. Possibly, the real star of the show was the eight-dollar keyboard who, sadly, did not get invited back out for the encore.
Mika tells me that Joel Plaskett has always done well in Saskatoon, to the point where he could sell out two Saskatoon shows on one cross-Canada tour; once while heading out west and once on his way back home. This show had sold out well in advance and the band got a great reaction with the singing along and the clapping and all that jazz. And apart from one guy who was a bit too irritatingly shouty, everyone was well-behaved, so the whole experience was pretty pleasant.
Looking online, I discovered that the setlist for his show a few days previously in Kelowna was much the same as the one we got, though in Saskatoon, he did play A Million Dollars for a young fan who held up a sign. I don't know if Joel Plaskett has hits or singles, exactly, or what passes for a hit or a single these days, but he played pretty much what you'd expect - most of the favourites and a lot from the new album. I didn't get Penny For Your Thoughts but I didn't expect to hear it anyway. At any rate, the show was excellent - enough to make me wish I'd made it to the show in Regina a few weeks earlier.
I was glad to see that Joel and Kelowna have settled their long-standing feud. As the legend goes (because I am way too lazy to fact-check), Joel had done a show in Kelowna that was not well-received and he immortalized this in his song Love This Town:
I played a show In Kelowna last year They said pick it up, Joel We’re dying in here Picture one hand clapping And picture half that sound There’s a reason that I hate that town
However, his most recent Kelowna show worked out better this time around, and his version of the song on this evening described his recent, more pleasant experiences in Kelowna. He ended by saying "there's a reason I can change my tune." The fans in Kelowna, meanwhile, got a nice long explanation of what had happened in the past and luckily, someone put this on YouTube in a video that I cannot recommend highly enough:
Anyway, back to Saskatoon. Our show ended with the new song Wishful Thinking and it concluded with all four folks singing the following lyrics:
CDs for sale at the back of the hall Buy one, buy 'em all Couple bucks cheaper than they are at the mall Thank you, goodnight, we'll be back in the fall
I was really looking forward to the return date, and was quite saddened when I finally listened to the new album and realized that these words were part of the actual recorded version of the song and (possibly) not an actual promise to return later this year. I wish I'd made a note of the CD prices to compare them with those at the mall - I could have spent a lot of time untangling this harmonious web of lies.
My cousin (and two guys I went to high school with) were in Thrush Hermit with Joel Plaskett. After meeting him many times (and from being a fringe player in the Halifax music scene in the 90s), I can confirm that he is, in fact, a weirdo.