* * * Warning: Minor Spoiler - 24: Day 4 in paragraph 4 - (Jeffy, I'm speaking to you) * * *
Jeffy, Moxy and I entered the illustrious Massey Hall, with great anticipation of the Rheostatics' final concert. We found our seats abutting a pole, allowing for storage of coats. On the other side, there were 6 empty seats beside me.
After an earnest, but ineffective intro, from CFNY's Dave Bookman (how can you not know that "Mac it" or "attack it" do not rhyme with "rheostatic"? Try "automatic" or "hippocratic" or "problematic" ...), the Harmelodians took the stage and launched into one of their many marine sagas "Saskatchewan". To my mind, they were setting up the perfect bookend for closing with their Lightfoot remake, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald".
The setlist was above reproach. Mind you, there was a delicious tease of "The Ballad of Wendel Clark Parts I and II", as a cardboard cutout of the esteemed Leafs captain peered out from beside the drum kit. Captain Clark's tribute was not played, but his likeness was danced around the stage for a spell.
I clapped with giddy delight as Dave Clark (no relation to Wendel) and Don Kerr appeared for a rendition of "Northern Wish". I haven't been this excited since Tony Almeida blasted his way back into action on 24: Season 4. Their music is so haunting and vivid; I glanced at the ceiling and could see a starry bright night sky in my mind's eye. Other songs revealed undersea vistas, and evoked cramped car roadtrips and late-night gas station stops.
To hear the ensemble segue from "Dopefiends & Boozehounds" into an islandic groove was particularly rewarding as the crowd, unprompted, with one voice, cried out, "ALOMAR!" That was when I knew I was part of something special. Here was a legion of patrons, who knew the songs, knew the words, knew the stories, and were there to pay their respects to the Rheos and soak up the unique soundscape on more time.
Emotions were very close to the surface that night. From shouted pleas from the crowd, to Martin's frustration with his failing voice, to Dave's sardonic and impassioned soapboxing, to Tim's steady professionalism, there was a determination to live in the moment and create something special.
There was a deep sense of profound thanks and appreciation from both sides of the stage. The show finally had to come to an end, and while "Wreck of the Eddie" was not played, the acoustic sing-along "Record Body Count" was entirely fitting.
Thank you Rheostatics, for richly textured musical tapestries, for making my high school years bearable, for being proud Canadians. You are very star.