I don't think I've been to a Gowan concert since his performances at The Ontario Place Forum in the 1980s. I did catch him performing a few tunes solo at a fundraiser a few years ago. My photos of that are here. This sold-out show at Toronto's Danforth Music Hall was a fantastic opportunity for me, as well as the other 1000 plus attendees to sit back and relax while listening to a rock solid band and a classic performer play and perform an impressive catalog of tunes.
Many of the songs that were soundtracks of my high school days, as well as the years up to now, were in the set. Gowan and the band opened with one of my absolute favourites, "Cosmetics" from Gowan's giant hit second album, 1985's Strange Animal. "Awake the Giant" from their 1987 album Great Dirty World was a huge hit and one of my favourites. It was a little hard to keep focused on photography when enjoying this great tune so much.
The first set's personal highlights continued with the laid back "When There's Time (for Love)", the hard rocking "Keep up the Fight" from his 1982 debut, and closed with perhaps Gowan's biggest hit, the intensely unique and dramatic "A Criminal Mind".
Then there was intermission. You don't see a lot of shows with an artist putting in two sets with no opening act. Gowan and the band certainly could have played from 8 straight through to 11 with the amazing songs that he's released. This format gave us much longer than a typical set, while pacing things out for both band and audience.
The second set got going with "Desperate". The rest of the songs in the set are all crowdpleasers and personal favourites. "Soul's Road" the 1994 album ...but you can call me Larry, "Dancing on My Own Ground" from , "All the Lovers in the World" from the 1990 album Lost Brotherhood, "Dedication", a Styx song called "Khedive" before the drum solo. The set continued with "Keep the Tension On", "Guerilla Soldier" and closed out with another of so many huge Gowan hits, "(You're A) Strange Animal".
Of course, we had to have an encore. We weren't going to let this night end quite yet. Gowan took to the stage solo at the keyboard to perform a cover of Rush's "Limelight" for the recently departed drummer, lyricist and general Canadian music royalty, Neil Peart. "Limelight" is a personal favourite, with such deeply perceptive lyrics about the insanity of fame, and Gowan's take more than did it justice as we all sang along.
The night ended with "Moonlight Desires" and we shuffled off into the cold and snowy Canadian winter night, with so many classic songs buzzing in our ears. I think we almost floated over the slush.
Gowan's vocals were perfection, hitting every note with absolute strength and precision, and his moves were lithe and energetic The band, featuring his brother Terry on bass and Bob McAlpine, the guitarist that's been there since the beginning, played impeccably.
I'll be waiting patiently for the next time I can live through another magical musical evening with Gowan.
In the meantime, here are just a few of my favourite tunes from the night's setlist.
"Awake The Giant"
"Keep Up The Fight"
"A Criminal Mind"
From a show I was actually at, back in the day, "Desperate".
"All the Lovers in the World"
"(You're A) Strange Animal"