Waterline, The Party
The band played two shows at Massey Hall this evening, both of which were sold out.
Several midgets (as per the now politically incorrect term of the day) ran around the stage during Toronto Tontos, to the sheer delight of the audience.
Ian Thomas Band
Kim Mitchell - Vocals/Guitar
Terry Watkinson - Keyboards
Gary McCracken - Drums
Dave Myles - Bass
The very best in rock 'n' roll has always been made by those musicians who have never given a hoot about capital-A-art but who have ende up being artistic just the same.
The list is not particularly long, but to it can be added Max Webster, the local quartet that gave two shows at Massey Hall last night.
This is possibly the first cubist band in rock history. I doubt if it intends to be a cubist band or cares anything about Braque and the theory of cubism. It probably thinks it's merely heir to a long line of rock crazies, from Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and Arthur Brown to Captain Beefheart and 10 C.C., and lets it go at that. So songs like Waterline or The Party sounded geometrically segmented and offered different views of the same subject simultaneously? So what?
After all, last night was just a couple of rock shows, right? An estimated 2,400 kids turned out for each show, and in the first one anyhow, they yelled at and for everything Max Webster did, threw lots of paper around and generally had a good time.
They also tried to yell down the opening act, the Ian Thomas Band, but it as simply too good for anything to do so with much conviction. Thomas is a romantic. He believes in well-crafted melodies and lyrics that are often nostalgic, bitter or sensual. His real audience is also Billy Joel's or Fleetwood Mac's — an audience that likes genuine rock 'n' roll but wants it kept in its place.
In doing songs like Coming Home, this singer-songwriter-guitarist gave a Max Webster audience exactly what it didn't want but what it had to accept. Thomas may be in the craft end of rock, but he knows exactly how to give this craft the spark of true imagination. In short, you can both hum his tunes and have good reason for doing so.
It's doubtful if anyone would be able to hum a Max Webster song, however. This band approaches the traditional song format but first reducing it to its basic components then rearranging these components in such a way as to present a completely altered and completely arbitrary version of the original ideal.
Superficially, then, the band's show last night was like any other rock show. It was loud — too loud, in fact — and through lead singer-guitarist Kim Mitchell, it had its element of on-stage craziness as he hopped and ran around.
Underneath all this, though, was a band showing its own notion of reality — just the way the best rock bands have always done.