Blue Rodeo

Live at Massey Hall – 2015 (Warner Music Canada)

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

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Live albums are always a contentious offering, too often merely serving as filler between legitimate releases. Sometimes they provide a glimpse into a band's back catalogue and serve as an introduction for new listeners. Both Johnny Cash's "Live at Folsom Prison" and Nirvana's "Unplugged in New York" have become among the most celebrated of the artists releases. Many other artists have failed to match their quality however.

While pop culture has sadly elevated Nickelback and Justin Bieber to the forefront of Canadian musical exports, Blue Rodeo have long been one of the most celebrated groups despite their lack of exposure outside of the country's borders. This live collection provides a decent introduction for newcomers to the group's Canadiana sound. It culls 14 tracks from a 3-hour concert held back in 2014. Six of those tracks come from their latest offering, which they were touring to support at the time, while the rest span their discography. The songs are played well and show why the band has remained relevant for so many years. Both Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor sound as vibrant on vocals as in their early days, while the musicianship has improved over the decades.

It is important to note that this is Blue Rodeo's third live release. Newcomers would be best served picking up their first live release, "Just like a Vacation," which contains 22 of their best songs from their first decades together and then venturing forward from there. This is an interesting souvenir for those who attended the Massey Hall shows, but unless you are a collector, this falls into the between album filler release category. There is little doubt that this hard touring band excels in the live environment, but it is best witnessed in person.