Ottawa Civic Centre
All right, who put the Valium in Kim Mitchell's beer?
Mitchell is the marvelous madman mastermind of Max Webster, the frantic focal point that has propelled this Toronto band into international popularity.
Hard on the heels of a dramatic debut tour in England and just one night after toying with he hometown Toronto Tontos at Maple Leaf Gardens, Mitchell and the boys returned to Ottawa Saturday night to share with their faithful following the thrill of their ever-increasing success.
It should have been a great evening. It wasn't.
Past performances have been dynamite. This one was a dud.
The music was there, the band just lacked that dynamic magic, mayhem and momentum that made previous shows so scintillating.
Mitchell, whose personally intensity and quirkiness is what brings Max Webster to life, came across like a heavily sedated Mick Jagger. The compelling eccentricity and striking stage presence just seemed to lie dormant under a heavy blanket of fatigue.
Musically the band put on a good show. It was the presentation that came across so flat.
Fortunately, the several thousand little Max-kins smoking up the Civic Centre were ready to fly without their pilot. All night long they crowded in front of the stage, waving their arms and screaming out their loyalty. However, their passion was a product of the past.
At one point, Mitchell stepped up to the microphone to intone the intro to The Party from the band's Mutiny Up My Sleeve album.
"Cat's in the bag . . . " was as far as he got, with a highly vocal crowd picking up the chant and providing the rest of the punchline: " . . . the neighbors holler/ this part's higher/ than the Eiffel Tower."
Their enthusiasm was well intended but hardly accurate. The audience might have been at least half-way up the Peace Tower, but the show itself never really got off the ground.
The songs, ranging over the band's four albums with particular attention to the most recent, A Million Vacations, were all well handled, they just lacked a cutting edge.
In fact two of the best tunes were turned in not by lead vocalist Mitchell but my keyboardist Terry Watkinson (Let Go The Line) and drummer Gary McCracken (A Million Vacations).
Still there was no dampening the crowd's infatuation and enthusiasm as a massive standing ovation brought the band back for a series of encore numbers.
Opening act Streetheart, another Canadian band building considerable respect and populatiry with their album work, was also a bit of a disappointment.
The band played quite well and drew strong response from the audience but their delivery was also a touch too flat and static.
Of course, as the opening act they had little room to move and the lighting was minimal and sloppy and that just underlined the group's lack of large-stage experience.
But there was a moment or two, during Hollywood and the Rolling Stones' Under My Thumb, when everything â€” music, lighting, stage presence, delivery â€” all came together to reveal what a dynamite act this band is probably on the way to becoming.
The potential is blatantly obvious. The band not only has a lot of good moves, it seems determined to use and develop them.
Already, though they were mildly disappointing, they were still far better than a lot of British and American opening acts we've seen over the years.
Right now, they're still better on record but watch out as they get their act together.
For the analytical, the whole evening was a disappointment. For the majority of the audience, it was a great raveup. The fanatical faith of Max's army is a tribute to Max Webster's brilliance in the past and a sign that one down night isn't going to end their remarkable career.
That's just one consolation in a night of many small consolations.