The sounds in Spectra Place were never so sweet as when Burton Cummings took the glucose out of Estevan’s diet, opening with No Sugar Tonight for his concert last Friday.
The band played the nostalgia-inducing opening to The Guess Who’s popular track, and then Cummings strolled out casually from the back of the stage to adoring applause. He settled himself behind the keyboard, and for the next two hours he played some of the sweetest rock songs a Canadian musician has ever produced.
In The Guess Who’s early days, Cummings and the rest of the band did extensive touring in Western Canada and he told the crowd of about 2,000 people it felt good to be back in the Prairies.
“This is my part of the world,” said the Winnipeg native, who now lives mostly in Los Angeles.
Cummings proved he still has speed in his 64-year-old fingers, playing some quick piano solos, and demonstrated his voice has aged well over his career, as he rang out the chorus to Undun and the high notes on These Eyes.
The audience was appreciative but subdued for most of the show. Cummings finally brought the house down and the people to their feet with the opening riff of American Woman. The Guess Who’s iconic rock song got everyone up and dancing.
When Cummings spoke to The Mercury last week, he noted the power of hit songs, immediately recognizable by the first notes.
He recalled opening for Jefferson Airplane in Winnipeg during The Guess Who’s early days. They played a great show and thought they would be the only band remembered at the end of the night.
“We thought they wouldn’t be able to compare to our show,” he said. “Four bars into White Rabbit, (the audience) forgot we were just on stage. That’s when I learned the power of a hit record, because the first four bars made them forget about our 60-minute set.”
For an aging rocker, Cummings is still very in tune with modern marketing and has embraced the digital age of music. He told the audience to take as many photos as they wanted of the performance, inviting them to shoot video of the entire show and post it online if they pleased.
“If you don’t let people bootleg your stuff, you’re finished.”
Cummings performed with the band he’s been touring with for more than a decade, The Carpet Frogs. Those at the show may have recognized his bass guitarist from another performance here recently. Jeff Jones played Estevan last year with Tom Cochrane and Red Rider for Spectra Place’s inaugural concert.
Cummings is now working on mixing his upcoming DVD, Burton Cummings Live at Massey Hall. The footage was captured during two performances, one from 2010, and another in 2011 that he wanted to do so each performance was his best.
Cummings said the project is great for him because he’s honoured to have his name associated with Massey Hall, one of Canada’s most hallowed concert halls.
“The ghosts in there are amazing,” he said, referring to the musical greats who have graced the Massey Hall stage before him.
He is also completing a book of poetry, The Writings of B. L. Cummings, which is due out later this summer. It’s a compilation of 47 poems he’s written, many of which he has posted on his blog.
The next concert Estevan is hosting at Spectra Place is scheduled for Aug. 12, when Simple Plan makes a stop in the Energy City.