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September 26, 2005

Suzie McNeil live


I'm just honoured that they loved me so much.
- Suzie McNeil

The most important advantage of growing up in Ottawa was having Hull, and Québec's more considerate alcohol laws, a short trip across the Champlain Bridge. As teenagers of an age that will remain somewhat unspecific (the parental units have been known to peruse this publication), we would pile into the Bondomobile, Wangomobile or the too sacred to have a nickname 49 Ford panel truck and make our way across the river to the dépanneurs and their precious bières froid. AC/DC, The Kinks and Led Zepellin were the soundtrack with Dire Straits offering the obvious anthem for any trip.

More important than any of these was Queen. It remains a mystery to me that the metalheads of Ottawa, not then known for their progressive instincts, idolized Freddie Mercury, not just flaming but breathtakingly gay. The name of his band was another subtle hint. Such is the power of an elemental cool to transcend all piffling differences between people. This Saturday night I had another mystery to consider: how it is that a British rock act could be so important to a generation of Canadians. Mike Myers offered tribute to Queen in his coming of age epic about the Tim Horton's of Scarberia, the Ultima Thule of Canadian suburbia. Canadians have a habit of worrying what it is that defines us beyond our differences with the States. Mike Myers answered the question with a movie meant to be set in Chicago but whose real location was obvious to anyone who had ever gone horn-tripping for coffee and cigarettes in Toronto at three in the morning.

This is all to say that if anyone had told me it was possible to cover "Bohemian Rhapsody" I would have told them something unprintable. This is not just a pop song. If anything, it is Canada's "Waltzing Matilda". Yet this Saturday night I had the privilege of being present when Suzie McNeil, backed only by drums, bass violin and a lonely electro-acoustic guitar, gave in to the crowd. Saying, "We are nuts to even try this," she stepped up to the mic and brought the house down.

Suzie McNeil's welcome home event at Revival felt more like a family picnic, if an extremely well-dressed and well-catered family picnic, than a concert. Suzie's set included most of her Rock Star INXS fan favourites including her original "Soul Life" and her smoking cover of "I Can't Make You Love Me". A question and answer session gave the tv fans an insight into life at the Rock Star mansion and the surreal life of reality tv contestants. Irascible producers (Suzie: "Mark, I just need to get a guitar." Mark Burnett: "Suzie, the only thing you need to get... is it... together!"), family members in the audience reminding you of every little slip of the tongue (Mom: "Unequivicably!") and drinking champagne from J.D. Fortune's toe in front of an international audience (don't ask about the cake) all featured. Having only returned to Toronto early Friday morning, and having been contractually cloistered, Suzie had not seen the show that has made her famous. Even so, it has already become obvious that Dave Navarro's "Sweet Suzie McNeil" is going to stick ("Oh yeah, that"). I can imagine it would get old fast. The trouble for Suzie is that the tag seems so appropriate. Everyone from her fans, her family, her band, her film production team and her management who so kindly arranged an eleventh hour media pass for your humble correspondent was so nice. A very Canadian rock star.

"I will do my best to get to Collingwood. And to Mississauga."
"North Bay..."
"And North Bay!"

Welcome home, Suzie.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at September 26, 2005 09:33 AM

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Suzie's coming to Collingwood?!?! Say it ain't so... :) I can only hope it's a promise she intends on keeping...

Posted by: Scoop [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 26, 2005 03:18 PM