photos by Darren McChristie
words by Michelle McChristie

Fred Eaglesmith played to a sold out crowd at the Stanley Hotel with a U2-style 360 degree stage…well almost. The crowd in the screened-in porch had to compromise their view of the band (they spent the night looking at their back sides), in exchange for a cool breeze and a view of the Kam River and the sunset. At one point in the show, Eaglesmith’s drummer, Kori Heppner, noted that the porch crowd laughed on different cues than the bar crowd. Peculiar.

Eaglesmith seemed perfectly at home at the Stanley—a venue that is typical of his hectic barnstorming tour. It must have been hot and sticky on stage because Heppner requested some towels after the second song. The staff at the Stanley responded immediately with “star treatment” in the form of some blue shop towels, while Eaglesmith weaved-in some jokes at the expense of Thunder Bay’s Finns, last night’s crowd in Atikokan and some loud mouths in the back of the bar. Word of advice: when you go to see Eaglesmith, don’t talk between songs. Something about an Eaglesmith concert reminds me of seeing a stand-up comedian—being noticed could easily lead to humiliation.

Backed by the Fabulous Ginn Sisters, from southern Texas, and an eclectic group of Canadian bandmates, Eaglesmith kept the crowd laughing with toes tapping. His song “Freight Train,” covered by multi-platinum country star Alan Jackson, was a crowd-favourite. Eaglesmith seems to relish having his songs covered by artists more famous than himself, but had to chuckle when he noted that the cover of Jackson’s album Freight Train shows Jackson with his guitar standing in front of a steaming passenger train.

Eaglesmith and his band played an energetic set that seemed to end a little to early (even for a Monday night). After a quick duck into the kitchen, the band emerged to play one last song: “Carmelita.” Eaglesmith played an extended version with a stellar guitar solo, perhaps to appease the guy that yelled out the request which was made to “Freddy” for his fiancee.

Tomorrow night, Eaglesmith, the Ginn Sisters and his band will rock the Legion in Nipigon. If you missed the show at the Stanley, or even if you were there, check out the show in Nipigon. Eaglesmith and his crew will be well-rested from a night at the campground in Kakabeka Falls (traveling in style).

By the way, the Ginn Sisters are touring in a bus fueled by used vegetable oil (donations are accepted although they say they haven’t had a problem tracking down used oil in northern Ontario). According to Eaglesmith, they always smell like French fries and “when they play cheesy songs, they smell like poutine.”