Concert Review / By Darren Hancock/ Dean Brody with James Barker Band & High Valley At First Ontario Concert hall April 25 2017

Dean Brody – ‘Beautiful Freakshow’ Tour
Apr 25 @ 7:00PM | FirstOntario Concert Hall (formerly Hamilton Place) | Hamilton
by Darren Hancock
First up was Ontario’s own James Barker Band, a 4 piece group gaining momentum and recognition on the Canadian Country scene. In addition to performing their radio hit “Just Saying”, the guys showcased their playful side, asking the crowd “does anybody drink beer? Anybody smoke pot?” evoking wild screams from the audience, immediately followed by a tongue-in-cheek warning from James that there were cops waiting at each exit. In actuality this was an amusing introduction to their fun-loving party song “Living the dream” which features the lines “I drink beer, I smoke pot” and ends with a cool dobro solo. Towards the last half of their set the band all lined up stage-front, even the drummer sat on a box and used it as a percussion instrument! James introduced the next song as currently ranking #12 on Country radio, and as an emotional song called “Chills”. They closed their set with their very catchy single “Lawn Chair Lazy”, and James had the crowd singing that fun line “Somebody hand me a beer beer beer”… the boys ended the show with some well-timed musical shots when James asked them “Can I get 1 time?” and the band all played a note together… then he said “10 times?” – 10 simultaneous shots were played… then “15 times?” – yes the band did 15 shots to close the set, leaving crowd primed for High Valley.
Duo Country sensation High Valley were next up, with brothers Brad and Curtis Rempel starting with their monster hit “Come On Down”. Their single “Dirtroad Side” was next, and provided a unique opportunity to mash in a few lines from the ever-popular Nitty Gritty Dirt Band number “Fishing in the dark”. In addition to their hits, they also performed the John Michael Montgomery smash “Be My Baby Tonight” (Brad admitted that this was the first song he learned to play and sing), during which they held a dancing contest for the crowd to win High Valley merchandise. The boys made sure the winners announced their names over the microphone for everyone to hear (Natalie won a ball hat, Mary a T-shirt). “You Be the Song” really featured the groups amazing harmonies, with impressive mandolin and dobro solos. Brad told everyone the High Valley origin story, revealing that their first practice occurred at an auto body shop. He also announced his brother Curtis had just become a Dad for the second time to much fanfare. Brad shared a heartwarming story about a Canadian farmer who borrowed against the farm to fly the boys to Nashville, and revealed that farmer was their Dad! He dedicated “The Only Way He Knew How” to their father in an expression of gratitude for his support. After asking for a round of applause for boys in the band, they showcased their bluegrass/gospel roots with “I’ll Fly Away”, and gave a shout out to the James Barker Band. Involving the crowd by having them scream after a 1-2-3 count, sharing intimate stories, and engaging them in the experience revealed how polished and great with the crowd High Valley really is. Rounding out their set with “She’s With Me” and “I’m Gonna Make You Mine”, Brad got crowd to sing chorus by themselves, and the brothers exited the stage.

In the darkness you could hear crickets and campfire conversations between Dean Brody and his band mates. The band entered the stage assumed their positions, and then Dean walked out and greeted the crowd with “How You doing Hamilton…!?!?” to an uproar from the audience. The band went straight into his hit “Bush Party” followed by “Dirt Road Scholar” and “Upside Down”. Dean gave a shout out to the James Barker Band and High Valley, and informed everyone that we were the “guinea pigs” for the tour as the first night started in the Hammer. Dean remarked that he saw many familiar faces and expressed his gratitude for the support of his followers. Next was a song he wrote about small towns that he never thought would go anywhere called “People Know You By Your First Name”. The familiar sing-along “Roll That Barrel Out” had the crowd crooning “Day-O”. Next was a surprise reggae number called “Beautiful Girl”, a song Brody says was inspired by Bob Marley. Continuing his relentless onslaught of hits like “Monteray”, “Undone” and “Love Would Be Enough”, Brody was handed two chainsaws, which he fired up and proceeded to put the chains together for the first ever “Duelling chainsaws”. Wow..!! I have to admit this was entertaining! After proclaiming he “ain’t worth a penny” in his song “Bounty”, we were treated to a wonderful fiddle solo by Shane Guse. The stage hands repositioned microphones etc to the front of the stage and Brody sat down with two of his band members, changing the mood to something more intimate and personal. The only thing missing was a campfire as he introduced his band members; on fiddle: Shane, on keys: Scott (from Kitchener), guitar: CCMA guitarist of the year Jason Barry, on drums: Lyle from Alberta, and on Bass: Mark from Hamilton..!!! They proceeded into a 3-piece unplugged session with just dobro, keys, and acoustic guitar and played fan favorite “Little Yellow Blanket”. Brody spoke of how he lived in US for six years, and was glad to be back in Canada – he didn’t realize how it felt to be from a Country and be away for a while to return to it, and was filled with pride in our Country’s democracy and tolerance. He dedicated the song “Brothers” to our Canadian military. Being from the small town of Jaffray BC, Brody wrote the next song “Time” about his youth to give a message to the younger members of the audience to live in the moment. The stage went dark as wired lights dangled from ceiling like Christmas lights as the band revealed their unique new single “Beautiful Freakshow”, followed by the Dean Brody classic “It’s Friday”, during which he pulled a little girl on stage wearing a black cowboy hat; she screamed “FRIDAY” into the mic every time he pointed it towards her, entertaining the whole room. The slick tune “Bring Down The House” was next, followed by the final song in his set “Canadian Girls”, during which Brody walked off the stage like a rock star, high fiving his fans along the way, and brought a five year old boy up on stage to sing with him (the young lad kept screaming “YES” into the microphone whenever Brody pointed it at him, resulting in much audience laughter). After the show was over, the crowd would not let the night end, and the boys returned to the stage for their encore… Dean Brody came on stage wearing camo pants and the band played “Mountain Man”, during which Brody ripped off the camo pants stripper-style (revealing his own pants underneath). They performed yet one more song to close the night, a tune written in the 60’s… Sam Cook’s “Saturday Night”. The duelling chainsaws did it for me, but the rest of the show was equally entertaining! Be sure to check out the Beautiful Freakshow Tour 2017..!!

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