Bill and Joel Plaskett charm Vancouver with a bit of old and a bit of new

Bill and Joel Plaskett with the Mayhemingways @ Vogue Theatre 1/4/17

Photo by Ryan Johnson
Photo by Ryan Johnson

Vancouver got an endearing performance from father and son team Bill and Joel Plaskett Saturday night (April 1) at the Vogue Theatre. This was a show that proved Joel’s status as a beloved Canadian icon, as it was geared towards the true fans, who in turn let Joel know quite vocally that that was indeed what they were. That being said, any newcomer would have fallen in love with Plaskett as he and his father promoted their new joint album Solidarity.

Inviting fuzz-folk duo the Mayhemingways of Peterborough, Ontario to both open for them and back them on various expertly played instruments, the Plasketts couldn’t have chosen better counterparts. With an assortment of musical stops like the banjo and the accordion, the Mayhemingways gave the Vogue audience a solid taste of their quirky lyrical style with catchy songs like “Hunter St. Blues” and “Small Town Crush”—all the while throwing in a lot of character.

Once Joel and Bill took the stage the audience was antsy for the main act. The duo led with “The Next Blue Sky”, and Bill took over lead vocals on the third song, “On Down the River”. Many of the songs Bill contributed to the setlist were quite old, one even aging back a century. This certainly slowed things down on a Saturday night—despite the elder Plaskett picking a fine guitar—but the audience seemed content with these injections of church-like serenades knowing that some Joel classics were right around the corner. Joel has a natural charm, one that probably comes from possessing a general playful personality and writing lyrics about places he loves and the woman he loves. Some of that playfulness popped out when he stumbled on the lyrics in “When I Have My Vision”, which concertgoers were more than happy to help him with.

The twenty-plus setlist held no lackluster point for Joel, and it was heartwarming to see him onstage with his dad—an accomplished musician who has no doubt inspired the Joel that so many Canadians adore. It would have been nice to see the Vogue’s seats a little more filled, just so more could hear the duo ace new song “Up in the Air”, “Blank Cheque” and Emergency fan favourite “Nowhere With You”. But they certainly felt the love that night. Little tid-bits of storytelling and references to his wife and early beginnings made him feel more like a friend rather than a performer. At one point in the evening Joel told a story about how he once got called in last minute to open for a Keith Urban concert at the Orpheum in Vancouver—and not possessing much country in his repertoire—ended up selling only one album afterwards. Sometimes when simply listening to his large back-catalogue, it’s easy to forget how fantastic of a guitarist Joel is. There was no escaping the impressive electric interludes at the Vogue, and the show boasted an eclectic array of different guitars for both Plasketts to prove their talents on.

The highest point in the evening came when Joel had the stage to himself for a one-on-one with the audience. Asking, “Is there a song you came here to hear tonight?”, Joel got such an overwhelming flurry of shouted-out requests that it took him a couple minutes of concentration to hear just one. And that request was the super-fun “Fashionable People”. Despite it being “not meant to be played acoustically”, Joel’s stripped down rendition pleased the audience so much and, frankly, seemed to please him too. Hearing fans scream out so many of his lyrics with such a familiarity has to have that effect on someone. They even helped him with the infectious falsetto chorus.

This stop on the Solidarity tour was versatile and packed to the brim with tracks new and old. While Joel has so many beloved songs—surely due to an impeccable combination of lyrical savvy and a focus on particular Canadian towns and streets—he and his father managed to create a show that both allowed their relaxed recent album to shine and older material to work for itself. It’s impossible to watch Joel both perform and banter with the audience and not leave with a smile on your face.