Big Sugar w/ Wide Mouth Mason @ Commodore -- 10/22/11

"To put it politely, we fucked some shit up".
That's what Gordie Johnson had to say early on about the previous night, the first of two sold out shows at the Commodore, and the kickoff for the Big & Wide tour, seeing Big Sugar and Wide Mouth Mason crossing the country "from island to island". It was also Big Sugar's first show in Vancouver since their farewell show eight years ago. I had been to that show and the return of the band, combined with Wide Mouth Mason, had me more than a little excited.

Wide Mouth Mason hit the stage at 9:30, starting off with an older tune, "Smile" before launching into one of my favourites off the new album, No Bad Days, "More Of It". The song's lyric "the only thing better than a good thing is more of it" was apt, with Shaun Verreault improvising "the only thing better than one band with Gordie Johnson, is two bands with Gordie Johnson", referring to his status as their new bass player.
The set was a split of new, like the sexy "Sweet Little Thing" -- with a little bit of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" slipped in -- and old, including the beautiful "Companion (Lay Me Down)", which they hadn't played live in years. As usual, Verreault was amazing on the guitar -- one of my favourites to watch live -- peppering solos throughout and being a captivating front man, getting the crowd into it and singing along, especially to their hits, their first big single, "Midnight Rain" and the song they ended the set with, the first song off their first album, "My Old Self".
It was a great set, definitely getting everyone excited for the night, and even though the amount of times I have seem Mason in the last dozen years is probably in the double digits, I don't think I'll ever tire of seeing them live, especially if they keep putting on shows of this quality.

Smile, More Of It, Midnight Rain, Get A Hold Of You, Go Tell it to the Waterfall, Shut Up and Kiss Me, Sweet Little Thing, Companion (Lay Me Down), What'd I Do, Why, My Old Self.

Then shortly after 11, the lights dimmed as Big Sugar hit the stage, over half a dozen members large. Aside from Johnson, there was the familiar faces of Garry Lowe on bass and Mr. Chill on harmonica, sax, melodica, and more, and new members Friendlyness on keys and "toasting", the drummer from The Respectables, Stephane Beaudin, and backup singer Meredith Shaw; as well as Shaun and Saf from WMM pulling double duty on rhythm guitar and a second, smaller drum kit respectively.
Any notions of rust on the band were immediately dispelled as their groovy bass lines and dirty blues rock burst forth, starting with "Work It Now" off the new album, Revolutions Per Minute. The first highlights of many came early on, with everyone singing along to "Diggin' a Hole" and one of my personal favourite songs, their incendiary version of "Dear Mister Fantasy".
The entire band had an unparalleled energy, especially Johnson, who had the crowd hanging off every word and note of the almost two and a half hour set, which was packed with songs old and new, and also included a few surprise guests. Canadian blues legend Colin James joined them for "Come Back Baby" and a twelve piece mariachi band, Los Dorados, came out for a couple songs, "Turn the Lights On" and "I Want You Now".
At that point the stage emptied for an acoustic song with just Johnson on guitar and Mr Chill on harmonica, before they brought the main set to an end with another one of my favourite songs, "All Hell For A Basement" and their rendition of "O Canada" -- ending with Johnson putting his double-guitar behind his head to play, proudly showing off the Canadian flag painted on the back.
They made us work for the encore, coming back out with the hemi-revving, tire squealing intro to "Red Rover" and an incredible extended rendition of "The Scene", with a little bit of James Brown's "Sex Machine" slipped in the middle.

It was, simply put, an unforgettable show, with Big Sugar reaffirming their status as one of Canada's best rock bands.

Work it Now, Diggin’ a Hole, Dear Mister Fantasy, If I Had My Way, Roads Ahead, Givin It Up For My Shugah!, Come Back Baby, Come A Little Closer… Now Come!, Kickin’ Stones, Empty Head, Counterfeit Wings (Are Some Jive Ass Wings), Little Bit A All Right, So Not Over, Better Get Used To It, I'm a Ram, Turn the Lights On, I Want You Now, Wild Ox Moan, All Hell For a Basement, O Canada.
(encore) Red Rover, The Scene.