"Bryan Adams. Celine Dion. Ladyhawk. Neil Young. The Dudes." According to The Dudes lead singer Dan Vacon, two of Canada's favourite five bands are on stage tonight, and while that song Run To You was pretty good I'm going to have to agree.
As an added bonus, The War On Drugs provided last-minute support for the evening, after their European tour with the Hold Steady was cancelled. They managed to shake off their Waterboys image with some hard-rocking jams from Wagonwheel Blues stretched out into psychedelia - although they did display a tendency to drag every song on a little long. They're not quite Neil Young just yet.
The pace of the evening changed dramatically when The Dudes took to the stage, with their well travelled bar room rock lifting the atmosphere immeasurably. The band were fast and tight, power-housing their way through much of Brain, Heart, Guitar with an immensely charismatic charm. As expected, the sound of the band's slightly over-polished debut was peeled back live, to reveal a rock-loving, hard-jamming machine - with drumming like you have never seen. Best of all, the band looked like they were enjoying what they were doing, as they brought a Thin Lizzy-like honest simplicity to a raft of great tracks like Don't Talk, The Fist ("one-hand claps will do if you're holding a beer") and Dropkick Queen Of The Weekend. "In case you're wondering, white jeans and a mustache are not cool in Canada either."
Luckily we're not talking Hoxton mustache here - and I'm happy to report another entry into the "Beards+Guitar+Canada = Rock" stereotype, as Ladyhawk provided another whole level of great. "Fast and loose" doesn't mean a band can't be super-tight, as Ladyhawk powering through the best of their two albums, segueing between their own songs. "Ladyhawke is in the toilet, she'll be here in a minute" mocked singer Duffy Driediger, which probably provided an explanation for some of the bemused looking crowd. No sign of dance-pop from songs like I Don't Always Know What You're Saying and Ashtray, as this distinctly Canadian band beefed up an already great album - blending heavy rock with instantly accessible, sing-a-long song-writing.
A rousing rendition of Fear rounded out a great bill of live music, before an as-yet-unidentified encore provided a powerful end to the evening. With The Dudes down the front providing sing-a-long vocals, the band all switched places leaving Duffy Driediger to roam free and bust out his most comical Freddie Mercury-like vocal moves from the open plains of the dance floor. Awesome.
The War On Drugs - 2.5 stars
The Dudes - 3.5 stars
Ladyhawk - 4 stars