Blue Rodeo Performs a Stellar Set at the PNE

Jim Cuddy

Blue Rodeo played a 90-minute set before a sold-out crowd of 7,000 enthusiastic fans at the Pacific Northern Exhibition (PNE) Amphitheatre. They performed many of their greatest hits that propelled them to Canadian rock-icon status.

Blue Rodeo emerged in the early 80s and scored their first big hit “Try” at a time when radio airwaves were saturated with glossy hair bands and teen pop stars. “Try” was a huge country-folkish hit in Canada, and since then Blue Rodeo’s lead singers, Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor, have traded hit after hit on Canadian radio. 

The band formed in 1984 and are celebrating 35 years playing together. Cuddy once said, “Don’t follow trends; just be who you are.” It seems to have worked as Blue Rodeo has always written and played their own music. They were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2012 joining music giants Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Robbie Robertson, and Rush. 

Blue Rodeo opened the PNE Summer Night concert series on Saturday August 17th. It was their first appearance at the PNE Amphitheatre. Opening the show, Cuddy sang one of the band’s biggest hits, “Five Days in May,” which was released in 1993 during the Grunge-rock era. It seems that Blue Rodeo just sailed along with good country, rustic, rock, and folk tunes despite all the current hypes and trends of that time. 

Jim Cuddy & Greg Keelor

Cuddy still has the pipes to sing songs like “What am I doing here,” “Piranha Pool” and “Head Over Heels.” I guess it’s true with the old saying, “the older you get, the better you get.” Keelor took centre stage and crooned into the haunting “Diamond Mine,” the band’s 1989 sleeper hit. Keelor sings “Diamond Mine” live so wonderfully that it almost spellbinds the audience. Next up was the up-tempo “C’mon” before the band strummed their way to Bob Dylan’s “I Shall be Released,” which was famously covered by the rock group The Band in their 1976 concert documentary, The Last Waltz. “Dark Angel” was so acoustically wonderful, and Keelor’s vocals made the crowd go “shhhhh!” You could hear a needle drop until the thunderous ovation.

Cuddy then took to his piano to sing “After The Rain” and his blues-like “ooohs” and “aaahs” set the crowd into appreciating what they were listening to. This is what makes Blue Rodeo so good live. 

They know how to get their audience so zoned into their slow songs that when it’s time to pace-up the show, Cuddy tells the audience “Okay it’s time to get off your seats and stand up.” And then the band rips into “You’re Everywhere” from their Casino LP, and Cuddy’s vocals on “Til I Am Myself Again.”  Before their “good-night” teasers, they leave the PNE audience wanting more when Keelor waves and points his microphone toward the audience to sing, “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet,” which is one of Blue Rodeo’s biggest and most recognizable songs.

He brought the entire crowd to its feet to sing along. After eight minutes of the crowd cheering for more, the band emerged from backstage to go into their crowd pleasing encores “Try” and “Lost together.”

If you haven’t seen them yet, then you must see them next time they’re in your town or concrete jungle, and then find out for yourself what we’re all talking about after a Blue Rodeo concert.