July 16, 1998

Media

Stardust Melodies
by Rick Overall - Ottawa Sun
Media Blue Rodeo figures the best way to enjoy the short Canadian summer is to have a picnic. A Stardust Picnic to be exact.

The ever-popular Canadian band has put together this intermittent travelling road show which allows them to hit the road at their own pace and select a lineup of musical friends and acquaintances that's sure to put a smile on everyone's face.

The aggregation hits JetForm Park this Saturday afternoon.

Singer/guitarist and sometimes percussionist Greg Keelor explains Stardust is just a great forum for Canadian talent.

"We always do a lot of big Canadian concerts in the summertime, but this allows us to do it in a more comfortable fashion.

"Something more in line with the kind of feeling you get at the better folk festivals around the country," he says in a phone interview from Toronto.

So, what's the criteria used in choosing Blue Rodeo's stagemates for Stardust?

"For example at our recent Toronto shows we put together people that we like personally. Neko Case, Ron Sexsmith, The Cowboy Junkies and 54-40 are examples of the kinds of people we like to bring with us.

"Hopefully they've got a bit of a draw to bring in the fans and make it a good experience for everyone involved."

For Blue Rodeo fans, seeing the group back in Ottawa is a chance to enjoy one of the best live acts in the country. Keelor agrees their last appearance here -- at the Civic Centre late last year -- was an example of how exceptional the band is when everything comes together.

"That was early in the last tour and that was the show where everything clicked together -- a happy show for everybody.

"There are some nights when the band can really sail -- kind of like a magic carpet ride -- and others are a bit more like actual work.

"But that's what we do."

A group is a bit like a sports team, after everything gels, the individual members can begin to trust one another and then start to excel at what it is they do best.

Keelor agrees.

"After you've played together so much there are certain patterns you fall into.

"Those tendencies can be real good because there are certain grooves that really work. But there are also other nights where everything changes and blooms in a certain way and goes to another level."

It is that magic every musician is after and there's no way to explain or plan for it.

"That's the inexplicable thing and I've learned that over the years you know that every once in a while you will have those nights -- where it's completely beautiful -- but when it's done you have to let them go because you just can't repeat it the next night.

"Those performances pick you, you don't pick them.

"So you have to stay disciplined and play the groove and hope you strike pay dirt."

Finding the ultimate performance is also something Keelor feels is a shared thing with the audience.

Group therapy if you will.

"There's a certain oneness that happens where you realize that's not you the musicians and it's not them the audience.

" It's just sort of a coming together of whatever that human energy is that comes from being in a celebratory state together.

"I think that one of the nice things about when those special concerts take place is the realization that the egos have gone away and everyone is just having a real good time."

In retrospect, last year's release of Tremolo should be marked as another milestone in Blue Rodeo's illustrious musical legacy.

The CD wears extremely well and the quality of the music bears witness to the fact this is a band that's carved a special niche for itself in Canadian music.

"Tremolo was really a bit of a healing record for this band. I had been out doing my solo thing and basically walked into the studio right off the road and started recording with no time to rehearse. We just sat down together and started playing the music. The first thing we did was It Could Happen To You and after about the seventh take it was there.

"There were a lot of rumours around when we did the solo thing. But in retrospect that exercise actually relaxed the mood.

"When I came back from it I felt so much more comfortable."

"It was just nice to see that this group of musicians could work together so easily after the break."

Another reason why people reacted so strongly to Tremolo, and the live shows which followed its release, had a lot to do with the fact many were under the impression Blue Rodeo was soon to be history and this might be a final chance to see a band that has meant a lot to all of us.

"I guess one of the good things about this band is that we've been able to remain detached from both industry and fan pressure. We seem to stumble along in our own collective corridor."