Sunday, January 30, 2011


Growing up in the country, I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to go to concerts. Well, unless of course you count community, school or local church based concerts and talent nights. There were also the performers that would travel the country fair circuit and do live grandstand shows in the evenings. Okay, yes I know those are all technically considered as concerts, but the concerts I’m talking about are the ones with performers that I would have heard on Winnipeg’s top 40 radio stations – CKRC and CKY - or seen on TV. The artists who toured the country or even the world!

I honestly don’t remember whether many of the artists of my youth even came to Winnipeg. I’m sure many of them did, but I just never really thought about going to see them live. As a teen, there were many performers that I would love to have seen in concert, but I never had the money or a ride to get to a concert in the city. I was reasonably content to hear them on the radio, see them on TV and buy their latest 45 or LP.

My first BIG experience with concerts was the summer of 1977. I went to a weeklong Christian Artists Music Seminar and Camp at Estes Park, Colorado. That was the first time I was ever on a plane or been that far away from home by myself! The days were filled with seminars and workshops. Every evening there was a 4 hour plus concert with a variety of some of the biggest Christian artists of the time. The music was amazing! I came home with a suitcase full of cassettes and LP’s!

By the late 1970’s and early 1980’s I’d pretty much given up on top 40 and really wasn’t listening to much Christian music either. I’d turned more to country and a bit of folk.

One of my favourite groups from the early 1980’s was a local trio Elias, Schritt and Bell. They got some local radio air time and played regular gigs at what is now the MTC Warehouse. The seating wasn’t that comfortable in those days, but the guys had such great harmonies and musicianship that none of the fans really minded. My friends and I went to their shows at least a couple of times a month! Sadly, their album was never picked up by a national distributer so they didn’t get the full recognition they deserved.

During the 1980’s I went to a number of country concerts. Some of the performers I saw were; The Statler Brothers (twice), Alabama, Don Williams, B. J. Thomas and Eddie Rabbitt! I’m sure there were more than that but those are the only ones that really stood out for me!

Like most people, my musical tastes changed as time went on. In the late 1980’s and during the 1990’s I went to a lot of concerts – mostly folk but also some pop and jazz. The folk artists ranged from Connie Kaldor, Ferron, Heather Bishop, The Wyrd Sisters, Eric Bogle to James Keeleghan and Oscar Lopez.

Those folk concerts were all at the West End Cultural Centre on Ellice Avenue. The building used to be a church before it became the WECC. The venerable venue has been around since 1987 and has hosted countless events. The WECC formed as a venue that would be offered to the arts and entertainment world. It hosts concerts, literary events, socials, meetings and any number of other events. A few years ago, the aging venue was in dire need of a physical overhaul to update its aging facilities and structural failings. The venue itself closed as it underwent a complete renovation in 2008/2009 but the events continued at other venues. The renovated building now has two venues – a small venue for about 80 people and the main room that can seat up to 380 depending on the layout. I hadn’t been to the centre since the remodelling but was impressed with what I had seen in the photo gallery on their web site.

I went to see jazz artists Tuck and Patti twice! I got to see several big name Canadian acts such as Bruce Cockburn, Leonard Cohen and Holly Cole. I went to see Barenaked Ladies at least twice and Moxy Früvous three or four times!

Yup – my tastes were diverse! They still are!! Unfortunately, my finances just didn’t allow me to keep going to all the concerts that I would have liked to go to. I don’t even recall what the last concert was that I went to but I think it was sometime in the late 1990’s!

There was another reason I didn’t want to go though. Because of my low vision, I had to sit pretty close to the front – like within the first 2 or 3 rows or I couldn’t see anything. Anything further back and I might as well have been sitting in the back row or listening at home. The tickets at the front are almost always priced quite high as you are paying for the privilege of sitting that close to the performers but many of those were just way out of my price range.

The ones that were rushed seating, posed another problem. Some venues allowed patrons to make special arrangements for preferred seating for the disabled. That wasn’t possible everywhere though so if I didn’t get there REALLY early I’d end up too far back to see anything. Sure, being there in the midst of a live concert was fun and you felt the electricity and enthusiasm of the audience but I wanted to see some of the stage and performers as well.

The part that annoyed me the most though were the concerts where I did shell out my limited resources for the prime seats only to have people from the cheap seats rush the stage and stand there for the entire concert blocking the view of anyone who was sitting in the first few rows. Security would block them from getting on stage but never forced them back to their seats. Complaining to management was pointless as they didn’t want to deal with angry fans. What was the point of paying good money for an actual seat at the front if you were going to be usurped by a bunch of cheapskates with no respect for other concert goers? I pretty much quit going to concerts after that.

There have been lots of concerts that I would LOVE to have gone to in the last 10-15 years. Artists like: Tony Bennett; Michael Bublé; Diana Krall; Rod Stewart; James Taylor; Bette Midler; Paul McCartney; Chicago; The Eagles; Crosby, Stills and Nash. Artists such as Meaghan Smith, Roy Forbes, The Chenille Sisters, Alice Peacock, Allison Krauss, kd lang, Melody Gardot and Linda Ronstadt would also be part of my "concerts to see" wish list! I’d also love to see some of the artists that I’d seen in the past again: Ferron, Leonard Cohen and Tuck and Patti to name a few.

Another artist that I had really wanted to see again was Connie Kaldor. I have several of her CD’s and have always enjoyed her voice and presentation. A couple of weeks ago I got that opportunity but I will save that for the next post!


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