Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day Five: The Burton Cummings Weakerthan Marathon

I am tired today.  My thighs are sore, the bottoms of my feet feel like they have no skin.  But I sure have had a hell of a good time!  I have a little post-show blues.  Boy this last week has been like a whirlwind love affair.  And though I do want to get home to my monster (Boston terriers named Oscar and Oliver) and to see all my friends at our annual Eggnog party, I also don't exactly want to leave tomorrow.   I can't listen to Left and Leaving today.  I am pretty sure it would make me cry on a day like today. So, let's talk about yesterday!

Last night the Weakerthans took the stage at the historic and beautiful Burton Cumming's theater to play all four of their albums.  That's something like 48 songs - or over 3 hours of music.  It was amazing to say the least.  I doubt they will ever do this again and am so glad I was there to witness it and attest that yes, it did happen.

I had a ticket in the 3rd row and had told myself I would use that seat.  For all the other shows I had arrived early and spent the night right at the front.  Tonight, I was going to take it easy and sit back, relax and take in the show.  I did use my seat actually -- to hold my coat.  Somehow, I found myself up at the front again leaning against the stage under the beloved Stephen Carroll's microphone and I could not bring myself to leave.  So for over three hours I stood there dancing to all four albums, played from most recent to oldest.

I had decided that I was going to *try* to refrain from singing along tonight.  I had sang along for the past 4 nights and love that, but it sometimes takes away from taking it all in.  Knowing this would likely be the last time I would ever see some of these songs performed - I'd rather be quiet and take it all in, not missing a thing.  I did pretty well with this.  It also allowed me to hear how much of the crowd was singing along with the songs.  Hearing that always puts a smile on my face.  There were a few songs where I could not help but sing a bit here and there.  And when they started into Letter of Resignation, in which John forgot the first verse - I did pipe up and yelled "keeps a diary, invisibly."  What was I to do?  The poor guy was a little lost, and this got him back on track.  His appreciative smile was such a reward. 

So how what about the show?  My favorite thing is that they seemed to be enjoying themselves, despite the enormity of the task they had taken on.  John came out wearing a dress shirt and skinny tie.  He was relaxed and funny - and looked totally at peace in front of a thousand people.  What I thought was beautiful is that they were at the huge Burton Cummings Theater playing songs that had been written and played for 10 years just around the corner at The Albert and Wellington's. What gratification that must bring.  I also though it was funny that JKS was in the Burton Cumming's Theater singing "the Guess Who sucked." For the record lightening did not strike.  But Burton is still alive.  I am not sure I would try that if he wasn't still with the living.  

Map of The Royal Albert Arms, Wellington's (former local)
and the Burton Cummings Theater

My favorite things from the show was hearing tracks you knew you were likely not to hear again: Hospital Vespers, Slips and Tangles, The Last Last One, Without Mythologies, etc.  They did not change much in any of the songs, but what they did change and embellish was done with perfect taste and came across beautifully.  I really hope they record a new version of Without Mythologies - and if they do, someone please get in touch and tell me!  I want a copy.  Also JKS doing his one guitar solo,  on "Utilities" was very entertaining to watch of course.  I will always think of that childish and mischievous smile when I hear this song from now on.

Last night I met my first obnoxious Winnipegger.  Though she was drunk so I am not sure that really counts.  She talked really loud the whole time - adding her drunken commentary to everything.  Everyone around them was rolling their eyes but were too polite to say anything.  Had I been in the States, I would have likely sternly but kindly asked her to use their "inside voice" when having a conversation 5 feet from the stage but I am a guest in this city - so I refrained.  After all the girl was obviously a Weakerthans fan, she sang lots of the songs -- not in key or anything -- but she was enthusiastic.  I believe that if people want to sing, let them sing!  Even if they can't do it well.  And by the end of the show I was almost doubled over laughing.  The Weakerthans were playing a quite song and she belting out the song -- about a half second behind, out of key and slurring words that she was just making up.  I mean some of the words sounded like they could be real words, but they weren't and they definitely were not lyrics to the song.  At some point you just have to give in and laugh.

After the show I headed to the after party at Lo Pub just in time to see yet another great local act Novillero.  They have the energy of Hot Hot Heat but are more enjoyable musically.  Rusty (who also played with Imaginary Cities and the Weakerthans that night) got up and played some of the set with them.  How?  After playing for at least 4 hours at the Burton?  I don't know.   Rusty must have broken some kind of record last night.  I am gonna have to look up Novillero and get some of their music when I get back home.  It was entertaining stuff.

I drug myself back to my hotel, with aching feet and sore legs.  The temperature was dropping, I could feel it.  And now that the high of the 4 shows over 4 nights was over, Winnipeg did feel a little colder.


  1. Hi! I just found your blog through the Winnipeg Free Press article on you -- and I read the whole thing tonight! I'm a Winnipegger (though not a Weakerthans fan -- sorry!) and like many you've met, I'm happy you've enjoyed our city. Your analysis of everything about us is so true! It's neat when a total outsider can walk in and make that kind of assessment. In any case, I just wanted to say that I really love your writing. Do you do any other blogging? If not... you should. (Please!?) Thank you for coming here... and I'm so glad you enjoyed your stay!

  2. Wow. You read the whole thing tonight. I am impressed. Thank you. It is much appreciated. I am not normally a blogger. I have done a few travel blogs before, but nothing on a regular basis. Thanks for your kind words though.

  3. Aww - you shoulda went redneck on the drunk for a true warts-and-all Winnipeg experience. Here's a story about my best/worst related experience the last time Steve Earle played the Burt :

    Sorry I got back too late to make it out tonight, but have a quick and safe trip home. Ypu've spread much seasonal joy while here and we all thank you for it!

  4. Hi ladybird, really nice blog. Are you able to make up the setlists from the 4 shows? Thx in advance!

  5. Andy,

    I'm glad you got to see Imaginary Cities! Thanks for writing your blog. I have enjoyed reading it for the last couple of weeks (you're a great writer by the way). You seem to have done so much in the short time you were here. I hope you made it for a drink at the Toad. Come back anytime!

  6. Thanks Mike for the suggestions. Yes, I ended up at the Toad on Sunday.

    Thanks for the kind words. It has been fun.