Taking care of business

Randy Bachman performs at the EA Rawlinson Centre on March 26 in Prince Albert. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Randy Bachman brings the house down at the Rawlinson Centre

I thought I’d been to some pretty good concerts in my life. I’ve seen Rush, Loverboy, Journey and Heart, along with a handful of other, newer, lesser-known bands.

But after what I saw at the Rawlinson Centre Monday night, I realized that I ain’t seen nothing yet.

Monday night the inimitable Randy Bachman, a rock and roll legend, took the stage. I was lucky enough to have a ticket to see the show live.

He may not move as well as he used to, but he can still sing, he can still tell a hell of a story, and man, can he play the guitar.

Bachman was a technician as well as an artist. There’s a difference between the two. Given enough time and practice, anyone can play the notes flawlessly. But it takes something special to make the notes and the phrases and the lyrics mean something. That something special can’t be taught, and Bachman has it in spades.

Someone familiar with his repertoire shouldn’t be surprised. Bachman has been a part of some legendary rock and roll bands, from the early days of The Guess Who, to Bachman Turner Overdrive (BTO) and later, Bachman Cummings. Acts associated with the Winnipeg-born singer-songwriter have sold millions of copies of albums worldwide. Bachman himself now hosts CBC radio’s Vinyl Tap.

Prince Albert knew his pedigree. The Rawlinson Centre was filled with appreciative fans.

It’s been a banner year for Prince Albert-based fans of The Guess Who. Burton Cummings stopped by on October 23rd last year. We didn’t write anything or take any photos. Our readers were (rightfully) upset.

Consider this column my penance.

Bachman’s show consisted of two distinct parts, woven together by his storytelling. The show combined elements of his own career, the part of the show called Every Song Tells a Story, along with selections from Bachman’s latest studio release, By George By Bachman, where the singer re-imagines songs penned by Beatle George Harrison.

Bachman’s storytelling was as intriguing as his music. He talked about his journey as a struggling musician growing up in the centre of Canada and of North America in the middle of nowhere – Winnipeg.

He talked about touring with a not-yet-famous Alice Cooper, and other trips with the likes of ZZ Top and the Doobie Brothers.

But when he wasn’t telling a story with his words, Bachman was telling a story through his music. Whether it was guitar tapping, soulful solos or tight harmonies, Bachman and his band came to perform.

While I know Bachman’s big hits from BTO (Takin’ Care of Business, Let it Ride, Hey You, Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, etc), for me, the highlight of the show was hearing him perform the hits of the Guess Who. Growing up, that’s right in the vein of the music my parents listened to. They exposed me and my brother to music like The Guess Who, the Beatles, Supertramp, Simon and Garfunkel, and other lyric-driven musical storytellers.

When I hear songs like No Sugar Tonight and the original American Woman (no cover comes close to the Guess Who version), I’m reminded of long car rides to Connecticut or Ottawa from our Toronto-area home to visit with family.

It was fitting, then, that Bachman highlighted the talents of his bandmates on stage, including those of his son Tal, playing guitar beside him.

Tal Bachman is no stranger to radio. In 1999 he released a hit single, She’s So High. Monday night, that song was played on stage by Bachman and his band. It was one of a few moments near the end of the show where the father and son shared musical moments together, moments that reminded me of my own musical sharing with my family.

Because that’s what the music of Randy Bachman does. Every song tells a story. Those stories are what have made Bachman a legend who still seems approachable. He still seems like a guy you’d meet walking down the street in Winnipeg.

Storytelling like that isn’t always present in the popular music of the day. Maybe if we all wrote and listened to meaningful music with feeling from artists who play with passion, we’d all embrace the performing arts.

Sometimes people question value of music, art or drama. Sometimes they go as far as to say they shouldn’t be taught in our schools.

But the fact is, art feeds the whole soul.

Perhaps if we all feed the artists in our own souls, and focus on developing that part of ourselves, we’ll spend less time focusing on the things that divide us, instead focusing on the talents and quirks that draw us together while setting each individual apart.

That was Bachman’s message too.

He saw it in the music of George Harrison and the Beatles. He saw it through his own interactions on the road. He told it through stories, through song and through the gentle weeping of his guitar.

Through all the stories, the inspirations, the travels and the music, at the heart of Bachman’s message was love.