Luckily the stage was heated and partially closed in but the gusts of cold snow and wind would still cause our guitars to go out of tune and our knuckles to stiffen up.
The stage was set on the frozen surface of the Rideau Canal where people were skating all afternoon during our soundcheck. Mick skated and so did Paxton (our guitar tech) but unfortunately I had to go searching for a new power supply for this computer. Roge (drummer) had to coordinate someone back home to find his cows that escaped his farm.
This year’s Winterlude will celebrate 175 years since the construction of the Rideau Canal, and the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The occasional snowflakes just added to the winter wonderland setting of trees with twinkling lights and skaters on the canal.
Well-bundled audience members crammed the front-of-stage, spilled over onto the ice surface, crowded the NAC’s second-storey balcony and thronged the Plaza Bridge overlooking the stage.
Randy was wearing fingerless gloves, and we opened with No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature. The crowd, which National Capital Commission officials optimistically estimated at 10,000, cheered and sang along with every hit. Let it Ride came off pretty good but the guitars started to go out of tune during Undun. I don’t think anyone but the band could really tell.
I sang my frozen face off in These Eyes after Randy introduced it. by saying “I wrote it on the piano, So all you kids out there taking piano lessons, remember.” I guess he meant that you should keep taking piano lessons and maybe you’ll get to freeze on a stage in Ottawa someday.
American Woman was the night’s biggest hit, according to the press. The crowd was a smiling, singing, fist-pumping mob of fur and Gortex who knew exactly how to get the most out of a Canadian winter. It’s most likely because Lenny Kravitz recorded American Woman and many of the kidsknow the song. I was amazed at how many people (young people) called me Randy after the concert was over.
Warming the stage for Bachman was Montreal’s fiery percussion ensemble Insolita. Fireworks from the roof of the Conference Centre added to the band’s sizzle, although the cigarette dangling from one drummer’s mouth detracted from Insolita’s spit and polish.
Before Insolita, Governor General Michaelle Jean, accompanied by her husband and daughter, officially opened Winterlude on the Snowbowl stage.
The Governor General was preceded by the night’s opening act, Jay Knutson.