The blues is more than a state of mind. It is an affirmation of life itself, a soulful articulation of the depths of the human experience — from exquisite heartbreak right through to sublime joy.
When the Chair of our Board, John Cranfield, envisioned a run of blues performances at our beautiful theatre, he was aiming to bring this community the very finest that the genre has to offer. He has done just that with the Elite Blues Series.
The series — quite rightly — has garnered a reputation for bringing some of the highest-calibre blues talent working today to Showplace Performance Centre. From Edinburgh to Memphis, Hamilton to Detroit, many of the world’s top artists have graced us with their soul-stirring music over the past three-and-a-half years since the series’ inception.
These performances most often take place in the Nexicom Studio, an intimate 110-seat space on the lower level of Showplace. Audiences have the rare opportunity to be in the immediate presence of some of the greatest blues performers of our time, while enjoying comfortable and candlelit cabaret-style seating. The Nexicom Studio also boasts a full-service bar sponsored by The Publican House Brewery, which is staffed by our wonderful volunteers.
This fall, we are thrilled to add three more jewels to the Elite Blues Series’ crown: Ray Bonneville on Thursday, October 22nd; Victor Wainwright and the Wildroots on Saturday, October 31st (with special guests The Paul DesLauriers Band); and The 24th Street Wailers on Wednesday, November 4th (all performances commence at 8 p.m.).
Ray Bonneville on October 22
Ray Bonneville is, first and foremost, a storyteller. I can’t help but call to mind Bob Dylan and JJ Cale when I think of Ray: he is a thought-provoking and innovative writer with words that sing, swing, challenge and elucidate. This soulful traveller and raconteur has lived the tales that he has to tell.
Born in Quebec and relocated to Boston at the age of twelve, Ray has served as a marine in the Vietnam War, overcome addiction, lived in all corners of the world, and spread his wings as a licensed pilot. He is a man who has earned his many stripes, depth of wisdom, and prestigious awards (such as the Juno for Album of the Year in 2000).
Ray has strong personal and musical influences from Louisiana, and The Big Easy in particular. The majesty, history, thrills and voodoo of the place shape his music in a profound way.
With his cunning vocal prowess, keen writing, soulful harmonica and astute guitar skills, we’re thrilled to welcome Ray to the Nexicom Studio on October 22nd for the first of what we hope will be many visits.
“Roll It Down” – Ray Bonneville
“I Am The Big Easy” – Ray Bonneville
Victor Wainwright and The Wildroots on October 31
Victor Wainwright is quite possibly the most electric live performer I’ve ever seen, and this is not my first rodeo. Larger than life in every sense of the phrase, “The Piana from Savannah” is a consummate entertainer, and a player and vocalist of the highest order. He’s also one of the finest folks I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. From American roots to boogie-woogie, honky-tonk, soul, and genuine rock ‘n’ roll, this man has the blues cornered from every corner.
Back by popular demand — for the third time — Victor Wainwright and The Wildroots return to the Showplace main stage on October 31st. We eagerly anticipate his freight-train-heavy vocals, overwhelming stage presence, and virtuoso piano work.The Wildroots are comprised of some of the heaviest young players on the scene: the incomparably skilled and intuitive Memphis native Nick Black on lead electric guitar, Florida’s own powerhouse and human drum machine Billy Dean, and the driver of the groove — sweet Mississippi bassist Terrence Grayson.
Opening the show is The Paul DesLauriers Band, a blues-rock power trio from Montreal featuring Maple Blues Award winning guitarist-singer Paul DesLauriers, drummer Sam Harrisson, and bassist Greg Morency.
My liver may be somewhat aquiver in anticipation of this particular concert. Contrary to what you might expect, Halloween is not my favourite holiday. With Victor and the Wildroots on our main stage on October 31st, I expect this year will be a dramatic exception.
“Honky Tonk Heaven” – Victor Wainwright and The Wildroots
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” – Victor Wainwright and The Wildroots
The Paul DesLauriers Band Official Promo Video
The 24th Street Wailers on November 4
The blues is incontrovertibly the precursor and parent to rock ‘n’ roll. In major cities across America in the 1940s and 50s — when showmanship, precision, groove, and soul were the essential ingredients to live musical performance — black artists were crossing the race divide and offering music that would stir anyone with a pulse. Heart, head and loins.
This is the blues of The 24th Street Wailers.
I first saw the Wailers as the headliners of the 2013 Peterborough Folk Festival. I was absolutely floored by the entire outfit, and by vocalist and drummer Lindsay Beaver in particular. Big presence, big voice, big drive. This stunning and skillful woman can’t help but take centre stage.
Lindsay is in excellent company, with the remarkable Michael Archer on upright bass, the-get-to-the-guts-of-the-thing guitarist Marc Doucet, Canadian musical royalty and top-notch pianist Jesse Whiteley, and the momentous sax player Jonny Wong.
Don’t miss the 24th Street Wailers in their debut performance in the Nexicom Studio on Wednesday, November 4th.
“The Pleasure’s All Mine” – The 24th Street Wailers
“Aim To Please” – The 24th Street Wailers
Of the myriad exceptional performances presented at Showplace each year, the offerings of the Elite Blues Series are those which make me most proud. I’m thrilled and grateful to be a part of a community project that works so hard to bring such extraordinary talent to its own.
The blues may be a state of mind, but it is much more than that. It’s a genre with an incredible history, big guts, big soul, and some of the finest precision and storytelling in music today. Showplace has the goods — don’t miss these sensational acts.
For tickets for the Elite Blues Series (as well as the many other shows in our fall line-up), visit www.showplace.org or call the Darling Insurance Box Office at 742-SHOW (7469).