It almost felt like a summer night.. the mercury teetering at 19 degrees Celsius.. sun shining.. I was headed to see a band that had performed at my Junior High dance.. At that time The Cooper Brothers, an Ottawa band had been playing together for years and were beginning to get some attention, they had a song on the radio, still playing locally and chasing the dream. Years later the Cooper Brothers are launching a new album Radio Silence, their 3rd album this decade. A full evening planned with Tom Wilson opening and some very special guests planned for their show including Sass Jordan.
LeE HaRVeY OsMOND kicked things off in Nepean’s Centrepointe Theatre. Emerging to the stage in a heavy overcoat, tuque, ripped jeans and what looked like kodiaks Tom Wilson had arrived, the master of the Indie music persona, with Junkhouse, Blackie and The Rodeo Kings and now LHO. Wilson embraced his setting and launched in to an acappella outburst of the a-famed Ballad of John Henry setting the tone for the evening. The set was a paired down, brash affair, with his son Thompson it was an intimate family expression with barely a mic, tambourine, a guitar and the two voices. The set did have soul, arrangements were simple, a little percussion, some harmony, Tom and Thompson kept our attention.
While the performance was appealing in it’s house show informality, you got a sense that seeing Tom and his son with a few additional members might overall be a bit more sonically satisfying musical experience. Tom spoke freely to the audience, his self-deprecating candour had the audience laughing through the pauses between songs, despite his often stark reflections on his life and the music industry. The set included mostly songs off of his latest album Beautiful scars with the exception of Wilson exercising artistic license on a late set change to include the Everly Brothers Price of Love. That song led in to a short soliloquy with a simple message “We need to make this a better world and we gotta do it fast”. Tom suggested that, “..each day, the news, government, churches, corporations all take our confidence away and we start losing our belief in the true love that we have inside us” if you go out every day, and with everyone you meet, you show love and generosity, patience and kindness, we’re going to make this a better world for our children and grandchildren for generations to come!”
The Cooper Brothers carried that energy straight in to their first song. The clean bright punchy electric rhythm rang through the theatre, followed by the men in black with the uplifting brass arrangement of I’ll Know Her When I See Her. The Cooper Brothers have prided themselves in presenting themselves as a big band, that wasn’t about to change tonight with 13 musicians took to the stage to get this show started. The show for this hometown crowd did have that hometown feel. Brian Cooper assured the crowd they wouldn’t forget the favourites. The audience, appreciative, long time fans, definitely leaned towards a festival lawn chair crowd.
The band launched in to a song off their new album Radio Silence, Mister One Percent. The song gave an indication of the themes on the album, perhaps a reflection on the challenges we’re facing in our world. Dick’s songwriting, forever hopeful next moved in to a gospel number from the album with a reminder of the mantra I’m Not Afraid.
The first guest of the night was introduced, the acclaimed mandolin, fiddle player Ray Legere. Legere performed the East Coast Music Awards the night before and took to the stage for the song Rain, another song off the new album. This ballad with long notes and sweet harmony lines featured local multi-instrumental artist Jeff Rogers on lead vocals, who is originally from New Brunswick.
The Cooper Brothers supporting cast features a lot of strong local talent, Darwin Demers on guitar (Shake The Ghost, The Paperboys), we’re used to seeing Jeff Rogers behind a grand piano at the local Mardi Gras. Eddy Bimm on Keys and brass arrangements, John Steele on pedal steel and banjo. The back-up vocals and all around consistent source of life and dancing on stage for the night was Sherri Harding and DeeDee Butters. The horn players, or men in black, including Kelly Craig and Fred on Trumpet, Brian Asselin on Saxophone, David on Trombone.
Smuggler’s Moon, with a spacious reverby feel and almost latin horn arrangement was a nice complement to Dick Cooper’s sweet and smooth lead playing. The Coops moved on to the title track off the CD Radio Silence again featuring Jeff Rogers on lead vocals and more of Dick’s lead playing. The songwriting on the album at first blush is strong with arrangements reminiscent of Steely Dan.
Halfway through the show Dick Cooper reflected on King’s absence from the band. Terry King, referred to as the 3rd brother by Dick, began playing with Brian and Terry in the 70’s when the band recorded their first few songs with another legendary local artist, producer Les Emmersen. Sadly in 2000 Terry King passed away. Dick said his absence from the band was felt at every rehearsal, every show, stories of Terry seemed to come up each time they got together. Dick went on to introduce Jordan King to the stage, Terry’s nephew to perform a song that Dick had written for Terry, a song call 62 Fairlane.
Jordan King a local singer/songwriter, who I had the privilege to meet and perform with on a regular basis for a time, on the Ottawa scene, took to the stage. Jordan echoed Dick’s comments and included that his Uncle Terry was an unforgettable guy, everyone remembered a tale or 2 about Terry. Jordan danced his way through the number bringing to the song, it’s rightful love and life.
Next Sass Jordan took to the stage also rocking the flowing blond locks. Brian had convinced Sass to do 2 songs instead of one, so Sass performed Paradise Pie and then went on to perform her huge hit Make You a Believer. Kelly Lee Evans joined the stage to sing the big Cooper Brothers hit Show some Emotion. Evans remarked on the work that Brian and Dick do for the community, she spoke in particular of their work at the Boys and Girls Club.
Brian Cooper forever the witty lead man never missed an opportunity to cajole his fellow band mates as he introduced the rest of the band to the audience, adding to the light and upbeat nature of the evening! Brian, like Tom who opened the show, kept a constant dialogue up with the audience. Brian joked about a recent conversation with Cher and Elton John where they lamented bands that don’t deliver the hits during the encore. Brian assured us the Cooper Brothers were not that band.
The Cooper Brothers closed with all of the performers on stage all singing their biggest hit. The night finished and we exited with The Dream Never Dies running through our head, apparently the line is true.
Written by Christophe Elie
Follow him and check his music out at @ChristopheElie twitter and instagram
Images: Sean Sisk