“I see myself up on the stage
And holding my guitar
And I can’t tell
If it’s Carnegie Hall
Or just some local bar
But the hands are clapping
And the place is moving
And I feel it in my soul”
Rik Emmett on 1976’s “24 Hours a Day” from Triumph’s self titled debut album
36 years ago Rik Emmett sang the lyrics above, and they are the perfect intro to this concert review, read on to find out why. In our earlier article “Toronto’s Upcoming Must See Concerts Summer/Fall 2012“, we pointed out that Rik Emmett would be playing Toronto’s Sound Academy on August 23rd. We stated:
Do not miss one of the world’s best guitarist and founding member of Canada’s best ever hard rock band Triumph. Home town boy Emmett is still very active as a recording artist even though he left the blinding light show and laser majesty of Triumph 25 years ago. Emmett is a member of the Canadian Rock Hall of Fame, the Music Industry Hall of Fame, and the Junos Hall of Fame. He has 17 solo albums released since his Triumph days, and they include progressive rock, jazz, acoustic duos and classical guitar records.
Before the gig we were fortunate enough to have interviewed (read it here) Rik Emmett and his touring partner Dave Dunlop. We asked Emmett what we could expect for the Sound Academy show and Emmett answered “.. plenty of classic rock: old Triumph hits, and some covers also show up … a bit of Led Zep, Joe Walsh. There’s also a traditional Emmett thing where we play an instrumental, Three Clouds, very Santana-meets-Allman-Brothers, and all the lads get a chance to blow their brains out. We kick it Old School – and my Gibson arsenal will be at hand. I might even pull out the doubleneck for a song …”
At 8:45pm the Lucas Stagg band were revealed as the opener for the night. A bit of southern rock influence with a bit of country and western that at points sounded like a Pink Floydian Meddle type of jam. Interesting blend of music for their 40 minute set and their music was mellow and laid back. They were quite good but the wrong choice as an opener for tonight. When the curtain closed the crowd begins to inch forward and fill up the space in front of the stage.
The Rik Emmett band which features Dave Dunlop on Guitar, Steve Skingley on Bass and Mike Churchill on Drums take the stage and start off with a blistering 7 minute of the Triumph classic – Lay It On The Line. Emmett sounded as incredible as he did on the original albums and the crowd did not need any warming up – they were into this concert in a big way from the first song.
Emmett then jokingly states that he “didn’t expect such a big house and maybe he should make a comeback” and that he wants to “take us back to 1981 for a song Gil Moore wrote called Allied Forces”. At this point one gets the sense that tonight’s gig is going to be a full on Triumph assault as a 1-2 punch of major Triumph hits are presented.
Before the next song Emmett tells the crowd to set the classic rock time machine to the 1970’s “which I am sure all of you remember well.” The crowd responds in kind but one of the largest cheers of the night comes on Emmett’s next line:
“My good friend Mike Levine is up there somewhere” (pointing to the upstairs VIP area of the club).
Of course Triumph fans will immediately know that Levine is the bassist of Triumph. Hopes were high that Levine would join Emmett on stage for at least one song but tonight was not the night for that unfortunately.
The time machine was first set to 1986 for Somebody’s Out There, which led right into 1977’s Rocky Mountain Way and Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love with Emmett doing both the Page riffs and the Plant vocals (including the famous screaming “looooove”) with mind numbing accuracy. There is no doubt at this point that Emmett has transported the audience and himself to the 70’s as promised.
The interesting thing about this concert was Emmett’s backstories between songs. We thus find out that his favorite Triumph album was Allied Forces and the next song was Ordinary Man from that album that Triumph never played live for some reason.
An acoustic guitar battle with Dave Dunlop is next on “Midsummer’s Daydream”. This song truly showed that Emmett is indeed a wise mentor in teaming up with Dunlop whose guitar solos and showmanship shined every time the spotlight was on him. Dunlop clearly has the skills to do guitar battle with the grand master Emmett, and at times the protege outplayed the master. As soon as the musical exclamation mark is finished the crowd gets treated to the Triumph epic classic Never Surrender. I have stated a few times this was a full on hard rock show and I couldn’t help to keep thinking how disappointing it was that Triumph has not toured in 2 decades and have no plans to do so in the future.
The instrumental Three Clouds Against The Moon is the next song (from Emmett’s solo catalogue) and for this one we get to see each member of the band take the spotlight and show off their musicianship. Truly a highlight of the night this is old school rock and roll jamming at its best.
The main set ends with the very strong “Fight The Good Fight” and the Sound Academy is exploding. Everyone in the audience knows that they were very smart to have come out to this show as this is the closest Toronto has been to seeing Triumph and all their musical wizardry since the 80’s. Emmett, Dunlop, Churchill and Skingley brought an higher level of hard rock musicianship – one than I have ever rarely seen.
The band comes back for a single encore that Emmett introduces by saying “I started doing this thing as a teenager, … and my whole life I have been able to make a living making music.. i am 100% grateful….thats the Magic Power”.
This show was practically a full-on Triumph gig! Aside from the lasers and the massive old school Triumph light show missing, musically we were transported to 1975-1987 and let there be no doubt, although Emmett has been dabbling in jazz, classic guitar, and acoustic music for the last 20 years, this was a pure hard rock show of the highest caliber. I can understand that Emmett is interested in many more musical styles but the joy in his face was undeniable every minute he was rocking hard. All Triumph fans can only hope that tonight re-light a spark in Emmett’s soul and our dream reunion happens before its too late. Just like the lyrics at the beginning of this review – Emmett did feel it in his soul.
Verdict – 5 out of 5. The very full Sound Academy saw a level of musicianship that is very rare these days. We had very high expectations for this show when we walked into the venue – not only were they met they were blown away. My only disappointment was not being able to convey my appreciation to Emmett and Dunlop after the show – if you are reading this guys – thank you for taking me on a euphoric musical journey!
Posted by Terry Makedon
T-Mak World: Toronto’s site for music, movie and culture
By: Tracey Lukasik
The evening was billed as ” An Acoustic Night of Triumph…and More,” and fans could not have asked for more than what was delivered this past Friday night. With the exception of “Hold On,” a Triumph favorite that Emmett regularly performs at the end of most of his live shows, a bevy of the Canadian Trio’s most well known songs were offered in a refreshed and acoustic format. Rik’s current band mates, Dave Dunlop (guitar) and Steve Skingley (bass/keyboards) enraptured the crowd with rousing renditions of “Fight the Good Fight,” “Lay It on the Line,” and “Magic Power.” The biggest crowd pleaser of the night was “Ordinary Man,” that earned Rik a thunderous standing ovation.
The intimate setting of the Bears Den allows for a fairly interactive audience experience and also encourages a playful and comedic dialogue between the boys in the band. Fans were part of the fun as Rik and Dave often traded barbs in jest, and tattled each other’s personal idiosyncrasies to the crowd.
The comedy act continued through the instrumental, “Midsummer’s Day Dream.” During a small break in the song, which was played with jaw-dropping precision, Dave took it upon himself to add a full bodied “burp.”Rik erupted in laughter and even expressed his hope that someone in the audience captured the impromptu prank on video (Rik, we’ll be in touch…wink, wink).
Emmett, who recently welcomed his first grandson to the world, explained that age has indeed affected his ability to hit notes of certain octaves on many of the original Triumph classics. However, this has also afforded him the opportunity to “grow” these songs into “adulthood,” as he put it. The versions turned in this evening by Rik, Dave and Steve rivaled those performed in arenas worldwide during the magical 80’s. Emmett briefly reflected on Triumph’s 2008 reunion and fondly dedicated a song to his former band mates in Triumph, Gil and Mike.
As the set continued, the guys also played two cover songs off of their recently released “Recovery Room 9” CD, which is a collection of 9 diverse tunes hand picked by both Rik and Dave. Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious,” were effortlessly worked into the evenings repertoire.
Rik Emmett consistently honors his loyal followers with his awe inspiring fret work. His genuine love and respect for music, in addition to his fans, resonates with every note he strums or sings.
Feb 10, 2012
Cover tunes are always a mixed bag depending on the tastes and skills of the performers. Walk Off The Earth’s recent viral explosion with their cover of Goyte’s “Someone I Don’t Know” was nearly identical to the original, except all five band members did a stunt performing of the song on a single guitar in situ.
With famous profile acts the results are, traditionally, extremely predictable. Rod Stewart doing “Heard It Through The Grapevine” and “Let’s Get It On” elicits an immediate yawn; Eric Clapton lighting into Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson? Qu’elle surprise.
With The Troubs, a duo that stars long-standing guitar virtuosos Dave Dunlop and Rik Emmett (Triumph), the stakes are high and expectations higher. When I heard about such a project I had no doubt that these two could pull off some incredible playing but the lynch pin was going to be the song selection and their execution.
“reCOVERy room 9” delivers on all fronts.
What the two gents have done is chosen songs that are not, generally recognized for their guitar content with the exception of The Police’s “Message In A Bottle” and Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer”. The duo added its own mark to these songs and filled in the gaps where percussion (the former) and keyboards (the latter) once occupied the arrangements.
While songs like “I Hear You Knockin’” and “Born to Run” were initially guitar based, The Troubs double the flavour. The bump and grind of “I Hear You Knockin’” gets a new coat of paint as a more bluesy offering and “Born to Run” chugs along briskly without being bogged down in the E-Street Band’s histrionics from the original. There’s a nifty reading of “Superstition” blending the gritty Stevie Wonder vocal performance with Stevie Ray Vaughn’s guitar arrangement that’s refreshing, considering the pedestrian beating the song still gets from karaoke singers and basement bands around the world.
A daring move is the all-guitar driven piano ballad “Always a Woman” by Billy Joel, which could have easily fallen into singer-songwriter Open Mic territory. Instead, the song is given full scrutiny and only suffers with a weird vocal turn in the choruses. Even more daring is the nearly satirical rendering of The Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen a Face” which appears to have been hi-jacked by Southern parody band Hayseed Dixie. Emmett and Dunlop can barely string the lyrics together as you wait for the song to go off the rails. They manage to hold it together long enough for the listener to say “WTF?”
The jewels of this CD are the final two tracks. There is a beautifully recreated version of John Hiatt’s “Have a Little Faith in Me”. Where Hiatt’s rasp always gave the plaintive lyrics gloomy gravitas, the soaring harmonies of Emmett and Dunlop make this a song of hope and redemption. The Troubs stop taking it all so seriously on the last song of the disc. Hearing a straight-laced politico like Bruce Cockburn turn Monty Python’s “Bright Side of Life” into a black comedy jaunt at concerts is nothing compared to The Troubs’ spit-take on Monty Python’s “The Galaxy Song” from their film ‘The Meaning of Life’. Some may not believe it, but this near-Vaudevillian version has a little more satirical zing than Eric Idle’s flowery orchestrated version.
If you’re going to buy any cover albums this year, I suggest “reCOVERy room 9” if for the final tracks alone. Here’s hoping there will be a volume 2.
Pavlo, Emmett and Lopez duke it out on Arden stage
Mar 03, 2010 06:00 am | By Anna Borowiecki | St. Albert Gazette
Pavlo, Rik Emmett and Oscar Lopez are quite the guitar players’ dream. Like great lovers they tease with lush guitar serenades, non-stop jokes, singing, dancing and blowing kisses.
The dashing, recently formed acoustic guitar trio, now on a 29-city tour across Canada to promote their debut CD Trifecta, dropped by the Arden Theatre Feb. 26 and 27. And make no mistake, the crowd loved them.
Like newfound lovers, they constantly surprise. Well into the first set, Pavlo turned to the to the other two and asked, “Can I tell them the news?”
“Sure,” came the reply.
“On Wednesday, they are going to announce the Juno Awards and we’ve been nominated. I want you to be the first to know,” he said before being drowned out by applause.
When the line-up was announced last summer, their melting pot of influences intrigued audiences. How would they blend? Greek-Canadian Pavlo developed an international reputation with his romantic Mediterranean sound. Chilean-born Lopez tears it up with fiery Latin sounds and Emmett has evolved into a cool jazz musician following his starring role as frontman/guitarist for hard rockers Triumph.
Brilliantly using this mosaic of influences, they blew everyone away with original melodies and dynamic musicianship that bore the mark of true artists reinventing the Canadian landscape. While at times the trio was a perfectly synchronized echo, at other moments Pavlo and Lopez would duke it out as Emmett supported with backups, fills and harmonies.
Although the threesome had a structured set list, they continuously shifted into improvisation. In a spontaneous move while singing Lay It On the Line, one of Triumph’s biggest hits, the trio dashed up to the lip of the stage and in western gunmen stance, they machine-gunned their guitars.
But their two-hour plus show was more than flashy guitar pickin’. The trio had gelled as friends and rocked with a warm onstage chemistry laden with the witty, pointed banter of soul brothers. Some of their jokes were groaners, but the interplay between the musicians was funny and they peppered the show with personal anecdotes and high fives.
Each musician displayed a different personality. The normally flamboyant Pavlo came across as the more restrained businessman. Emmett took on the role of group anchor and quick-thinking professor while Lopez clowned around as a loose cannon, most notably mocking a Latino Lothario image.
“With Oscar, we never know what’s going to happen. That’s the most exciting part of this show. Every night is different,” laughed Pavlo.
Immediately Lopez said, “Do you like my shoes?” while twisting his foot at an odd angle so the audience could better see the shiny shoes reflecting pinpoints of light from overhead spots.
“I know why he bought those shoes,” Emmett quipped dryly. “He likes to look at himself.” And so it went.
They appropriately opened with the electrically charged Latin scented Dance of the Three Jacks before moving on to Melting Pot, a tune full of unexpected, free-wheeling twists and turns that Pavlo captured with his sitar.
They dialled it down with Moonlight on La Costa Nera, a romantic bolero dedicated to all lovers and scaled it back up with Thousand Islands, a fast melody that prompted Lopez to scat before heading into a guitar duel with Emmett.
Family is a big deal for these musicians and they played two tender instrumental lullabies — Viola for Pavlo’s 14-month-old daughter and Niko’s Tiny Carousel for Lopez’s three-year-old son.
In a nod to the Beatles, they sang Norwegian Wood, the first pop song using a sitar and With a Little Help From My Friends. And Emmett doffed his cap to nostalgia and let it rip with some traditional hot rocker moves in B.B. King’s Let The Good Times Roll.
It was not a show of high kicks and nifty pirouettes, but Pavlo successfully attempted a Zorba style one-leg squat and Lopez mimicked a Vegas crooner’s funky dance grooves. The threesome spun a marvellous mix and judging by the autograph line-up, a return show won’t come soon enough.
Strung-Out Troubadours featuring Rik Emmett and Dave Dunlop
Poor David’s Pub
Nov. 20, 2009
By A. Lee Graham
“Music holds the secret, to know it can make you whole”
~ Rik Emmett, Hold on ~
Those words are manna from heaven for Triumph fans. Summoned to Dallas for a rare Rik Emmett appearance, a small-but-dedicated crowd sang along as the Triumph legend brought smiles and laughter to the faces of everyone.
The occasion was the latest stop by the Strung-Out Troubadours, Emmett’s partnership with fellow guitarist Dave Dunlop that mixes acoustic guitar acumen with between-song banter that could hold its own even without music.
Like a rocked-up Smothers Brothers, Emmett and Dunlop tore through fiery flamenco, caressed smooth jazz licks and revisited some vintage Triumph tunes.
“Hold On,” “Ordinary Man” and “Lay It On The Line” whisked fans back to the enorno-domes of yesteryear as they sang along to every line. The only missing ingredient were Bic lighters — oh, and a certain herb.
“Fritos, Doritos,” laughed Emmett, remembering band mates Gil Moore and Mike Levine leaving the stage and the guitarist shrouded in a “laser cone” and a cloud of marijuana smoke.
“I’d get the munchies,” Emmett laughed, recalling his acoustic solo spot on Triumph tours.
The Dallas crowd enjoyed a reinvention of that sound with “Midsummer’s Daydream,” rearranged for Dunlop and Emmett to perform. Joking that anyone can play the intro — and has on numerous YouTube clips — Emmett separated the men from the boys by capturing the nuances, tones and sheer musicianship that make the composition such a delight.
Judging from several conversations throughout the room, many in attendance were unaware of Emmett’s post-Triumph activity. And that’s a shame, for Absolutely, Spiral Notebook and other solo discs offer quality music. So does his flamenco activity with Pavlo and Oscar Lopez. And lest we forget Airtime, the hard rockin’ project that scored a hit with Triumph fans in 2007.
And the streak continues this year as Emmett and Dunlop bring seasoned showmanship and sidesplitting hilarity to nightclub stages. For all his consummate musicianship, Emmett could coast on the comedy alone.
Bemoaning middle-age body aches, poking fun at “silly hairdos” of the ‘80s and fearing optic damage from a guitar pedal board brought laughs from the audience.
Perhaps no moment confirmed their dedication more than “Ordinary Man.” On the Allied Forces album, the lyric “That’s the only answer” ends with “answer” echoing into the next verse. Not on this night. At Poor David’s Pub, the audience provided its own echo!
Emmett smiled as his fans shouted the word “answer,” confirming Triumph’s place in their rock ‘n’ roll hearts.
Emmett and Dunlop rewarded that faith by hanging out after the show, signing autographs and posing for photos. When I mentioned that Reunion Arena had been demolished only days before the gig, Emmett instantly recalled the venue where Dallas enjoyed Triumph’s Allied Forces, Never Surrender, Thunder Seven and Sport of Kings tours.
Poor David’s Pub itself moved since Emmett’s last gig at the venue, but one thing cannot be razed or relocated: the music pulsing within the hearts of Rik Emmett fans. They should (warning: Triumph pun ahead) follow their hearts and not miss the Strung-Out Troubadours.
And don’t miss Andy Schmidt, the former Stir front man whose songwriting chops and powerhouse vocals opens the show.