I’ve been out of the Trews game for a long time, and I was more surprised by the fact that the last time I actually caught the band live was when they hit the Magnetic Hill stage in support of Bruce Springsteen. I was fortunate to have caught the band opening for Big Sugar in February of 2002 as Trouser, and when the band returned back to Halifax (again in support of Big Sugar) they had become The Trews. Now, I was there when House of Ill Fame was released independently, and loved the hell out of that record, and remember when the band signed to a major label and the album was re-released.
It wasn’t something the band did, aside from releasing catchy radio-ready music that the local radio scene played to death. The music was good, it just lost its lustre for me, and so went my interest in the local band making good throughout the rest of the country. Don’t get me wrong, this is no knock on the band, as I enjoyed the songs that they were releasing. It would just be a long time before I would see the band perform live again; longer still for me to rediscover that enjoyment I had during those early Trews shows.
In those 14 years, I think I only saw the band perform once (if not twice) before last Friday night at the Marquee (where my love of the Trews began). Kicking off the evening was the very talented (and HAFILAX favourite) Adam Baldwin, who brought along Leith Fleming-Smith to provide some keyboard accompaniment. While it was a low-key performance from the duo, they performed some of Baldwin’s earlier tunes (“Bonnie Raitt” and “Love You With My Eyes Closed”), with a handful of tunes from No Telling When. The crowd was even treated to a new song by Baldwin, and after a brief opening set it was time for the Trews to hit the stage.
While the change-over seemed to be relatively quick, the evening’s headliners didn’t emerge from that backstage curtain until close to 10pm. The crowd was getting a bit impatient, but there wasn’t any drunken drama deterring from the proceedings. Colin, John-Angus, Jack, Gavin and Jeff kicked things off with “Chinese Kites” (a cut from the band’s recently released Time Capsule). For the next two hours that followed, the band delighted fans with selections from their six studio albums including a handful from their debut House of Ill Fame.
The Marquee Ballroom stage might be imbued with some rejuvenating properties, as the recent stop from Halifax’s favourite sons Sloan was one of the best performances I’ve witnessed from the band in the last decade, and the fire that burned in the belly of the Antigonish rockers this past Friday was impressive. Until the show at the Marquee, I would have never considered the Trews to be a necessarily “funky” band but, with the bass lines being put down by Jack Sypereck and the keyboard work of Jeff Heisholt, the tandem elevated the band’s sound to something more than a traditional rock n’ roll band. There was this swampy southern-rock vibe running through the band’s sound, which was an interesting dichotomy, as Colin’s place as lead singer reminded me a great deal of Roger Daltry (of the Who).
However, from John-Angus’ scintillating guitar work, and Gavin McGuire’s command of the drum and lights, it was an impressive night of rock music at the Marquee. It was a set that consisted of some great acoustic numbers (including the pre-requisite “Highway of Heroes”), a potent collection of instantly recognizable rock songs and, upon returning to the stage for a second time, a pair of covers from beloved local acts Joel Plaskett (“Natural Disaster”) and Sloan (“Underwhelmed” – where in my opinion the band out-sloaned Sloan). When the show wrapped up shortly after midnight, the crowd and band alike were sweaty and spent. From the fact that the Marquee was lit as well as it has ever been, to the triumphant return of The Trews, it was a night that rekindled my love of the music from the band formerly known as One I’d Trouser.