Monday, February 4, 2008
The Bell Centre For The Performing Arts
Surrey, BC Canada
***Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
The announcement back in January that Canadian hard rock legends, Triumph, would reunite for the four-day Sweden Rock Festival this June caught many people off guard. Not only was the band’s split with vocalist/guitarist Rik Emmett in 1988 one of the most acrimonious in music, Emmett’s solo career since his departure from the band has been eclectic, to say the least. From the radio-friendly AOR of 1990’s ABSOLUTELY to the jazz-flamenco waters tested later, Emmett had long-abandoned the power-chord-driven arena rock of Triumph’s golden years. Last spring’s induction into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame certainly laid the groundwork for Emmett, Mike Levine and Gil Moore to put their differences aside and speak civilly for the first time in nearly twenty years.
Before this historic reunion, though, Emmett ventured out west for the first time in years, playing a solo show accompanied only by guitarist Dave Dunlop, who Emmett previously collaborated with on 2006’s STRUNG-OUT TROUBADOURS. An extremely small crowd of about 250 people congregated around the front of the stage of the cavernous Bell Centre on a snowy, slippery Monday night to enjoy Emmett’s all-acoustic two-hour set that was filled with sharp, self-deprecating humor and plenty of stories.
These days, the 54-year old Emmett devotes his time to being a family man and full-time professor of music at Toronto’s Humber College. In stark contrast to the spandex-clad, falsetto-voiced showman made famous by the 1983 US Festival where Triumph played to an incredible half-million people, the bespectacled Emmett strolled on stage wearing a tan blazer, black slacks and tie. Armed with only a pair of acoustic guitars, Emmett and Dunlop let the music do the talking in a set filled with Emmett’s solo material, four Triumph hits and a pair of covers.
Naturally, the majority of the crowd would have been tickled pink to hear Emmett soldier through a rambunctious set of Triumph classics but only “Hold On,” “Lay It On The Line,” “Magic Power” and “Suitcase Blues” (dedicated to Gil Moore and Mike Levine) were dusted off for this show and the acoustic treatment served them well. Admittedly, I was hoping to hear “Fight The Good Fight,” “Follow Your Heart” and “Somebody’s Out There” and with the exception of ABSOLUTELY and 1992’s IPSO FACTO, my knowledge of Emmett’s solo material was minimal, so being exposed to fifteen years of an artist’s music all at once was interesting. The smooth jazz of “Good Thing,” the flamenco-tinged “El Cuento Del Gadio,” the bluesy “Perpetual Motion Love Machine” and the beautiful balladry of “Let Me Be The One” (dedicated to Emmett’s wife of 31 years, Jeanette, and a popular wedding song, apparently) show just how diverse Emmett’s career has been since leaving Triumph at the height of their success. Emmett cited his own musical influences by tackling Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” and a few bars of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” to fill out the set.
Musically, Emmett and Dunlop were flawless. This stripped-down, acoustic approach hides nothing and in a venue of this size with everyone so close, any mistake would be glaringly obvious. Emmett’s arsenal of guitars—including a very cool transparent one—got a real workout on the speedy-picking of “El Cuento Del Gadio” and an unbelievable version of “Suitcase Blues.” The stunning “Three Clouds Across The Moon” was my personal favourite but there were so many standout moments that it difficult to summarize them all. Suffice it to say that while Emmett may have lacked commercial exposure since exiting Triumph, he has never slouched in terms of writing and recording interesting music.
Perhaps the best part of the show was the between-song banter, as Emmett spent a considerable amount of time telling stories about his family, career, travels and inspiration for some of the songs. For example, “Let Me Be The One” went against every rock and roll cliché by promoting monogamy, while “Way Back Home” tells of empty nest syndrome. The most telling, though, was how “Hold On” was originally written by Emmett in a high school poetry class. My personal favourite, though, was Emmett’s admission that the reason for the fifteen-minute intermission midway through the set was added because his “54-year old bladder can’t make it for two hours!”
Light of Day
Lay It On The Line
El Cuento Del Gadio
Perpetual Motion Love Machine
All Along The Watchtower (Bob Dylan cover)
Two Small Rivers
Let Me Be The One
Way Back Home
Three Clouds Across The Moon
Born To Run (Bruce Springsteen cover)
I was a bit apprehensive about this show when I found out it was entirely acoustic and that little attention would paid to Rik Emmett’s period in Triumph, but it took very little time to be won over by the rich musical palette presented by Emmett and Dave Dunlop. Music has become a hobby rather than a lifestyle for Emmett and as the guitarist eases into his mid-fifties, the pressures of life on the road are something that he is slowly getting back into, taking time off from his professorship to play a few solo dates and get warmed up for the first Triumph show featuring Rik Emmett, Mike Levine and Gil Moore since 1988. Five days after this show was going to be the first Triumph rehearsal in Toronto, something that seemed unfathomable even a year ago. The Eagles did it, Van Halen did it and now Triumph is hopefully going to do it, as well. Anyone lucky enough to be in Sölvesborg, Sweden this June 4th through 7th will be treated to a reunion that was for many years equated with hell freezing over. To quote “Magic Power,” “The world is full of compromise…But the music’s got the magic." It sounds like the members of Triumph have finally looked within and embraced their own lyric.
***Thanks to Rob at Rock It Boy Entertainment for the press pass.
Rik Emmett—Official Site