High class curiosity rock and roll hit Hamilton Place last night with a return visit from Toronto rockers, Max Webster.
But the real curiosity of the evening was why it took the four-member heavy metal group so long to shift into high gear.
Max Webster is a well-loved name around these parts. Gradually working it way up from the bars and colleges circuit, it has become one of the country's best rock bands in the heavy metal vein. Its albums sell quickly, its concerts are sellouts, and a just-completed European tour should have the rest of the world clamouring for the group.
Max's musical appeal lies in the energy of its compositions and absurdity of the lyrics, many of them written by the unseen fifth member of the group, Pye Dubois. Their latest album, A Million Vacations, from which most of last night's performance was taken, marks a widening of musical style for the group.
On stage, the appeal of Max Webster centres mostly on lead vocalist and guitarist Kim Mitchell. Mitchell, who likens himself to a six-foot two-inch praying mantis, has a highly-developed and extraordinary stage presence, putting the group out front in the industry for live appeal.
Mitchell dressed strangely, speaks to his audience in selected pieces of song lyrics and spends most of his time strutting, bobbing and hopping in outlandish body movements.
Musically, the group was right on last night, but Mitchell didn't seem to have his normally limitless supply of energy, staying unusually stationary throughout most of the first part of the concert and it was surprising how noticeable the difference was. Even without Mitchell's antics, the band is extremely entertaining, but when you're expecting more, it's disappointing.
Mitchell also shared some of his vocal work with keyboardist Terry Watkinson and drummer Gary McCracken. Both members sang songs off the new album that they had written. Watkinson fared well, although his vocal talents don't match Mitchell's, but McCracken, who did the title cut of the A Million Vacations album, just didn't come through well enough.
Near the end of the 90-minute performance, things suddenly clicked for the band and they ended, looking and sounding like Max Webster should, while their encore left the appreciative crowd shouting for more.
Max Webster appears again tonight at Hamilton Place.