Reinventing the songs of 54-40

Alternative rock band performs acoustic versions of their hits at Peterborough's Showplace on January 19

54-40 performs at Showplace Performance Centre in Peterborough on January 19 (photo: Matt Barnes)
54-40 performs at Showplace Performance Centre in Peterborough on January 19 (photo: Matt Barnes)

54-40 are one of Canada’s longest standing and most successful rock bands and they return to Peterborough on Tuesday, January 19th at Showplace at 8 p.m.

They have continually released hits while morphing and developing their sound over the course of three decades. With their newest release, they aren’t blazing any brand new trails of rock and roll, but they are taking a different path. The album is called La Difference: A History Unplugged, and both casual and longtime fans will enjoy the album and the show.

The band’s lead singer Neil Osborne puts it this way:

“Basically we took our 10 biggest songs and reintrepreted them acoustically,” Osborne says. “By that, I mean no electric guitars. And we put a new twist on the songs.”

In fact, there are several new twists. Tunes like “I Go Blind” feature fiddle and a campfire-singalong vibe. The songs are a little more laid back, with a deep groove held down by sparse but deep drum tones and acoustic guitars. Other tunes feature some different instrumentation. “Since When” features flute, and another features mandolin.

The process gave the veteran rock band another perspective.

“We quite enjoyed it — we got to rediscover the songs and put them in a different setting,” Osborne explains. “The process was inspired. We tried it with a few songs and then started thinking we could do a whole of album like this.”

The album is different than anything they have done before, as is the tour. These are many of the same songs you would hear at a typical 54-40 show, but the band also provides some background on the tunes as well as stories from their long and successful career.

54-40 in 1992 (photo: Robert Karpa)
54-40 in 1992 (photo: Robert Karpa)
“The show is a more intimate showcase of the songs and of the band,” Osborne says. “It lets people in more, into what’s happening.”

54-40 recorded La Difference over two weeks. The final three days were performance days, when the band brought in about a hundred people to check out their work.

“We performed the show to get some instant feedback about how it was working,” Osborne says. “That was a lot of fun.”

Big time 54-40 fans will be impressed by the different versions on the album. They also need not worry about the band changing their sound to acoustic for good.

“We still do the rock versions of these songs and that’s a heck of a lot of fun too,” Osborne explains. “But it is nice to do it this way. I think it’s a testament to the songs that they still work.”

Tickets are $47 each and are still available for the show. If you want to have dinner first, Showplace and The Curry Village (just steps away from Showplace) have teamed up to provide a $74 dinner and show special ($148 for two).

“One Gun” – 54-40

“I Go Blind / Since When” – 54-40