September 26, 1996


Rodeo Riding High
by Jane Stevenson - Toronto Sun


Given their status as a Canadian institution, it's hard to believe that Toronto's favorite sons, Blue Rodeo, have never played Maple Leaf Gardens.  Which is why tomorrow night's gig at the hockey arena is such a kick for the band.

 Or at least for guitarist-singer-songwriter Jim Cuddy.  "Two institutions are colliding, the Gardens and us," he says on the phone from his Toronto home.  "For me, it's a historical place. I always wanted to go there as a kid. See, I was born in Toronto, but I never lived in Toronto 'til I was a teenager, and so I always had this thing about Toronto. I just mythologized it as the perfect place. For me the Gardens is just really a hallowed hall."

 Cuddy says the only reason Blue Rodeo -- who won group of the year at the Junos in March -- has never played the arena is that the twice-as-small Ontario Place was always their venue of choice until it was replaced by Molson Amphitheatre two years ago.  "When it became a choice between the Amphitheatre and the Gardens, then we thought, 'Let's try the Gardens and see,' because I don't think the Gardens are going to be around much longer."  The only downside to playing a hometown show is "taking care of" the family and friends of the six different band members.  "It's nerve-wracking," Cuddy admits. "It's hard to look after everybody. It's probably the most difficult gig we do in Canada. The other ones are a cakewalk compared to doing Toronto. I know for myself I have a lot of family and a lot of friends and everyone likes to be treated well, as they should be. But there's a lot of them."

 Cuddy, who has a wife and three kids -- aged nine, eight and four -- also dispells lingering rumors of a band breakup, pointing out that Blue Rodeo will be back in the studio early next year to record the followup to their sixth album, Nowhere To Here, and have tour plans for next summer.  "We're staying together as far as we know. I think as the band gets more independent, as people start showing up by themselves, I think it's an inevitability that people would think, 'Well, this is the beginning of the end.' But for us the beginning of the end has come since our second record, which is, 'Oh well, they'll never do as well as their first record so this will be it.' Then you start to get used to the death knell."

 The rumors of their demise were perhaps spurred on by their first-ever Gardens show and the "two distinct" sets alluded to in the concert announcement.  "One set is just going to be Jim and one set is just going to be (his songwriting partner) Greg (Keelor) -- it's the beginning of their two solo careers," Cuddy says with a laugh.  "I think what they were hoping is would we do an acoustic and an electric, but it's never really that delineated with us, so I'm sure the sets will end up being different but I'm not sure how."  As for the next album, Cuddy says the group already has "lots of songs" for it but wouldn't specify the direction the sound is taking.

 "I have an idea, but they never end up being what you predict they'll be. So I know the way the songs are going. I think it'll be songs of a more particular type than the last record, which was much more broad."  Cuddy did say that unlike the last two albums, the band wouldn't be recording at Keelor's farm in Port Hope, east of Toronto, and would opt instead for small studios in the city.