In spite of the threat of rain, the “Weather Gods” cooperated with Burton Cummings on Tuesday night and it turned out to be a cool summer evening filled with toe-tapping fun. The former lead singer of The Guess Who was in excellent voice and his band was on fire, cranking out hit after hit to an enthusiastic crowd.
After a fun-filled set from Andre-Philippe Gagnon, a music impressionist who presented snippets of songs from a variety of artists ranging from Bing Crosby to Bruno Mars, Burton Cummings strolled onstage and hit the ground running with “No Sugar Tonight.”
Cummings current band is amazing, they play with a ton of conviction and nail the choruses on all the songs. The duel guitar attack makes the songs really rock, and the rhythm section was dialed in all night.
Even though Cummings is best known for his singing, he really shined on the piano Tuesday night. He joked with the crowd that his mother forced him to play piano when he really wanted to be a hockey player but happily noted, “I’m still playing music a lot longer than I would have played hockey.”
Unlike many modern shows, the stage was sparse, there were no backdrops, or giant video screens with montages of past glory, so the focus was on the music and the musicians. In an era of sampling and autotune, Cummings show was a refreshing return to an era when the only thing a band needed was for their amps to be cranked, and the crowd to provide a reason for the band to play.
The set was filled with songs that created a party atmosphere, and only included one ballad, the Burton Cummings solo hit “Stand Tall.” If someone had not reminded me that he did not perform “These Eyes” or “Undun,” I probably would not have noticed. The set did not suffer a bit, and while both of those ballads are classics, Cummings seemed to forego them in favor of some deeper cuts that had more octane.
There were some real gems, such as the J.J. Cale song “Trouble in the City” and the Cummings solo songs “My Own Way to Rock,” and “Break It To Them Gently.” All three of them had the crowd smiling and dancing. Cummings also threw in his take on “Louie Louie,” telling the crowd “We are not trying to prove anything, we are just trying to contribute to a perfect evening.”
The perfect portion of the evening came with the final three songs, “American Woman,” followed by “No Time” and the evening’s spirited encore, “Share the Land.”
There are a few artists still performing many of these Guess Who classics, including the current lineup of the Guess Who and Randy Bachman, who performed at Artpark in 2017. Nobody performs them better than Cummings and his band, and that may be simply because Cummings still looks like he is having as much fun as a kid in his first bar band, and his band feeds of the enthusiasm.
Even though Burton might have been a great hockey player, we are lucky that he became a musician with a long and fruitful career. He may not have scored any goals but he did score a lot of hits — and he won the hearts of many fans, including the one’s at Artpark Tuesday night.
Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night and Day.