Big Sugar brings it home at Maxwells
On Saturday, Nov. 25 I had the pleasure of seeing Big Sugar for the first time.
I say finally because I have been waiting to see them in concert since the first time I heard “Turn the Lights On” in the back of my uncle’s van when I was five.
“This is my favourite song,” I declared.
Big Sugar intersects in a lot of weird ways for me, personally. For example, songs like “All Hell for a Basement” — which details the struggles that Newfoundlander’s face when they head out west to find work — hits very close to home, as my Newfie relatives made their own journey’s to the mainland seeking out opportunity among other things.
The band also has an apparent fascination with the American car brand, Dodge — not unlike my own father and brother — as they seem to reference them on at least two of their album covers.
Needless to say, I walked into Maxwell’s with some expectations. Those expectations were not what one might have guessed, though.
As a band that is quickly approaching their 30-year mark, I did not place too much hope on the energy of the group. More of my anticipations were based around whether or not they would play the hits — which they definitely did.
When the band opened up with a recent cut, titled “Never Been Done Before”, front man and guitar player, Gordie Johnson had a clear message to convey.
“I’m back to let ya’ll know / I’m here / let’s get on with the show.”
The band launched into their set with intensity and passion, spearheaded by their guitar virtuoso of a front man.
Instantly I realized that this group did not intend on slowing down any time soon.
Soon after they began their set, they satisfied the hungry crowd with their very first hit, “Diggin’ a Hole”.
“I’m feeling twice my age,” Johnson crooned into the microphone over the chunky, distorted guitar riff.
Not a very accurate statement these days, if you ask me. I had to have been the youngest person in the 19 plus crowd, and Johnson — who in 2012 was told by doctor’s that he might not play guitar again — appeared to have twice as much energy as I do on any given Saturday night.
Never mind the fact that they played the Danforth in Toronto just 24 hours prior.
The band’s set was filled with improvised jams, genre blending and, of course, the perfect amount of Canadiana.
After debuting some new songs, Johnson thanked the audience for their patience and proceeded to dive right back into the classics, making generous use of his slide, a talk box and also switching back and forth between his signature and double-neck guitars.
Before re-returning to the stage for a multitude of encores, the band collected in front of the audience and opened up “All Hell for a Basement” with an intimate penny whistle jam.
“Do you know how hard it was to find someone to play the maritime penny whistle?” Johnson asked the crowd, minutes before he exploded into an intense rendition of O Canada — a staple for the bilingual band.
When they finished the national anthem — in true Hendrix fashion — Johnson flipped his double-neck guitar upside down behind his head, revealing a large, custom painting of a Canadian flag.