Fri, Jan 3, 2014.
It's become a pretty predictable cycle over the last few years and last few albums for Blue Rodeo. They release a new album in the fall, and then go on tour in the new year. Their new one, In Our Nature, came out to great fanfare before Christmas, and now the tour has just begun out in B.C. It sees them arrive at Casino New Brunswick Feb. 06.
While the album-tour pattern has become predictable, the response to the group's latest has been a bit of a shocker. In Our Nature crashed into the charts the first week of November, debuting at #2 in the country, giving the band their highest placing ever, and biggest one-week of sales. For a veteran band, such a positive response means a lot, and it certainly pleased band co-founder Greg Keelor. Speaking from his Toronto home on the eve of the tour, Keelor says it confirmed what he felt about the album. "I feel pretty good about songwriting," he says. "I feel like its one of my best batches of songs in a while. And i had quite a bit this time, which means i could throw away ones that didn't work." As for the sales, he likes that too. "It just sold so well coming out of the box, which was quite a pleasant surprise. It was pretty good for a bunch of old geezers, to be up there with Rihanna and Arcade Fire for a couple of weeks."
Each album has a different feel to it for the people who make them, and In Our Nature feels like a true band album to Keelor: "Everybody was very involved in it this time. it was done at my place at the farm, which is like rock camp, you get away from all the stuff in the city. And you have meals together, and it really helps get everybody on the same page." It's also a return to the sight of the group's most famous release, Five Days In July, always the favourite of fans. It's not the first time the group has been back at Keelor's farm to record, but he says it was the best experience since that first time. "We'd done Five days, and that was such a great experience. But Nowhere To Here (the 1995 follow-up) was miserable. So the group was kinda scared to come back. But this one worked out great. The difference before was we had done Five Days in the summer, when there was lots to do outside and around. But Nowhere To Here was recorded in the winter, and we were stuck inside. But this time it worked out well, so you can't blame the farm. If anything, you can blame me for Nowhere being miserable, I'm sure the band would."
Well, it's tough having a lot of people around your house sometimes. But everyone is in a good place right now, and that bodes well for the tour. With the success of In Our Nature, Blue Rodeo is making a bold move with the show. Most veteran bands have to do the hits, and maybe try to stick a new song or two among the familiar ones. Happy with the songs and sales, the group will do the opposite, and play all the new stuff. "You want people to hear it," Keelor explains. "This tour, the first set is going to be the whole record. We'll do it all, take a break, and then come back with the songs everybody knows. I like that, we'll see how long it last. We want people to know the songs first. We've done it before where you try to fit the new album around the ones people know better. But this time we're really confident about the material. I think our audience can handle it."
Really, Keelor knows they can. Now 26 years into its career, Blue Rodeo continues to have the most loyal fan base in the country. In case you didn't get seats to the Feb. 6 show from Santa, tickets are still available from the Casino NB and Blue Rodeo websites.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).