By Nancy J. Parisi
News contributing reviewer
The final concert of the Buffalo Place Rocks Canalside series, a well-blended cocktail of musical stylings, was served up Saturday night with a divine and lingering Canadian chaser. Headliner Matthew Good and his backup band Big Wreck started off the balmy evening.
Both acts are of the same mid-90s vintage: Good has made music consistently, while Big Wreck went on hiatus for a decade. Both are equally ingrained in the rock ’n’ roll consciousness of those who listen to alternative music within the frequency of Canadian radio. Sing-along moments were, therefore, frequent.
Good’s choice of “Last Parade” as opener was a dramatic and driving beginning, appropriate for a last sonic hurrah. “It feels like time to let it go, it feels like time to break or show,” he sang in his signature vibrato.
It was on to “Alert Status Red,” Good suggesting at song’s end that the outdoor concert series be renamed, in light of its location. “They should call this event something far cooler – ‘Under the Overpass.’ ”
His accompanists, not introduced during the set, gave “Born Losers,” next on the docket, rockabilly flourish.
The set transitioned from small-venue, draw-them-in intimacy to arena-ready projection. Piano and bells led off “Non Populus” from the 2011 release “Lights of Endangered Species.” It was arresting, and Good ended the song on his knees before his amp.
“The last time I played with Big Wreck was 15 years ago. They are massive talent. Let’s give it up for Big Wreck,” Good shouted. “Let’s consult the Fan-O-Meter,” he continued, “should we go light and airy – or delve in?”
Someone hollered, “Go there.” And they did.
But first Good, a political blogger, inquired, “So what do you all think of what your president had to say today?” referring to the Syrian-related breaking news of the day. It was time to delve; the remainder of the set was curated to be a soundtrack for escalations, ponderings and conflicts.
Anthemic “Had It Coming,” the first taste of forthcoming “Arrows of Desire,” led into another from the album, “We’re Long Gone.” He returned to older, more familiar tunes – a run including “Load Me Up,” “The Future Is X-Rated,” and “Hello Time Bomb.” It was before “X-Rated” that Good revealed an onstage anxiety: “I throw to you guys, and I’m inwardly terrified that no one’s gonna sing along – it’s ‘Inside the Actor’s Studio.’ ”
“Apparitions” ended the hourlong set before a triad for the encore: “Giant,” “Black Helicopter” and “Champions of Nothing.” Good, obviously sated, left the stage after applauding the crowd.
Big Wreck, led by vocalist/guitarist Ian Thornley and co-founder Brian Doherty, played the last of their tour dates supporting their latest, “Albatross.” “I knew it was gonna be hot, but not this hot,” Thornley said. “This is pretty much our last show of the summer.”
Drummer Chuck D. Keeping, bassist Dave McMillan and guitarist Paulo Neto blended into the signature and soaring Big Wreck sound for a full set featuring its own surprises. Jangly “That Song” got some hard-rock polish, dovetailing into lesser-known “Look What I Found.”
It was on to “Wolves,” and title track “Albatross,” allowing Thornley to express his dynamic vocal range – hushed phrasings to full-throated yowls.
The opening riffs of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” gave way to “Ladylike,” and onward to “Blown Wide Open,” one of Big Wreck’s most beloved tunes. “The Oaf” and its refrain “My luck is wasted” led into one of the summer’s most unforgettable rock moments.
Thornley, solo and center stage, played the throbbing Johnny Marr riff of “How Soon Is Now” before circling back to “The Oaf” with the full, deft band back swinging.