KIM MITCHELL TAKES OSHAWA, CANADA ON A TRIP BACK 40 YEARS

Peter Fredette, Kim Mitchell, Biltmore Theatre, Oshawa, Canada, classic rock, rock, rock and roll, Max Webster, guitar, bass guitar, band, Canadian Band, Canadian Musicians, classic
Photo Credit: Jay Broderick

Oshawa, Canada – Canadians are proud of the musical talents that have come out of their country. In the 1970s, Canada began to make its mark on music’s global stage as bands like Rush, The Guess Who, and The Band started to make noise internationally. Another one of these bands that had reached some notoriety outside of this country was Toronto’s Max Webster.

With their rock/prog rock/metal fusion, Max Webster, who was founded by vocalist, and guitarist Kim Mitchell, was a typical opening act for fellow countrymen, rock giants Rush. Unfortunately, due to exhaustion and poor label support, Kim Mitchell dissolved the band. On the other hand, fortunately, Kim Mitchell just couldn’t stay away from the music scene. In 1985, he released his first solo album Akimbo Alogo, and it was the start of a Canadian love affair with a musician who has released countless songs that are as important to Canadians as hockey is.

Among Kim’s standout tracks are the acclaimed “Go For Soda”, which at first glance seems to be about drinking and driving, but according to the musician is actually about two people in conflict, “Patio Lanterns”, and one of my favorites “All We Are”. Any Gen-X’er music fan from Canada will know these, as well as party anthems “Lager and Ale” and the aptly titled “I Am A Wild Party”.

THE VENUE

On February 19, 2023, I headed out to the city of Oshawa, Ontario which is 38 miles East of Toronto. The iconic live music and entertainment venue in Ontario’s Durham Region was established in 1940, just ahead of Canada’s joining the fighting of World War II. At that time, The Biltmore Theatre in Oshawa was the first of five independent theaters in Southern Ontario to be built by the Okun Brothers of Toronto, who made their fortune selling ladies hats.

In April of 2022, the theater was given historical status under the Ontario Heritage Act, and the city of Oshawa has vowed to keep The Biltmore Theatre an integral part of the city’s downtown community. After full renovations in 2021, it’s now one of the premiere venues in all of the Durham Region.

THE PARTY

As I parked my car (free weekend parking to boot) and headed over to King Street in Downtown Oshawa to line up for entry into the concert hall, I noticed a very familiar sight compared to a number of the recent shows I have photographed. The fans lined up outside were of the older sort…. Like me! I felt at home, and in my element amongst my people.

Peter Fredette, Kim Mitchell, Biltmore Theatre, Oshawa, Canada, classic rock, rock, rock and roll, Max Webster, guitar, bass guitar, band, Canadian Band, Canadian Musicians, classic
Peter Fredette of Kim Mitchell performing at The Biltmore Theatre in Oshawa, Canada on February 19, 2023. Photo Credit: Jay Broderick

I met a gentleman named Dave who told me stories about seeing Kim Mitchell back in his Max Webster days, right there in the very same city of Oshawa. In fact, it was a regular occurrence for Dave to see the band at the old Genosha Hotel back in the day. He also shared a funny (at least I thought it was funny) story about being upset that his sister had gone off with one of the band members after a show.

The opening act this night was a local Oshawa band called The Doozies. A folk trio with a fiddle, guitar and bass cello. I had seen this band’s name on the circuit but had not taken the time to check them out. In front of a packed house, they immediately made me feel at home with their music and their showmanship. With my East Coast roots, this is the stuff that takes me “home”.

Now to Kim! Right on queue, at 9:00, the lights go down and a chill Kim Mitchell appears on stage, black jeans, black t-shirt adorned with a camouflage colored skull, and immediately break into “Rocklandwonderland”. Right away, I know this is going to be a great night as the band sounds spot on, as does Mitchell’s voice. No 3 song “warmup” was going to be needed. With no photo pit on this evening, I left my current post ahead of the first track’s end, to head to a different location, for a different angle. I literally cannot move. Well, not without being a bit of a nuisance to the paying customers. The house is full!

After the second track “Rock and Roll Duty”, the band transitions in to the rhythm and bluesy “That’s a Man”, with vocals from bass guitarist Peter Fredette. While the first 2 tracks of the set have set the tone, this track completely solidifies my first guesses. The whole scene is perfectly laid out before our eyes and ears. And then a drum solo, a mere 15 minutes into the show, from drummer Dave Langguth. Yep! It’s going to be a great night!

Kim’s first interaction with the crowd comes after the first track as a fan yells out “Patio Lanterns”. His sense of humour comes out immediately as he’s quick on the trigger responding “Already? What, and then we’ll just close up shop and all go home?”. The singer’s demeanour in his interactions with the crowd makes me feel like he’s just another fan, hanging out beside us, watching the show himself. He shares stories of his years with Max Webster, and jokes about how much he hates the album covers for High Class in Borrowed Shoes and Universal Juveniles. Hilarious! If you don’t know them, give it a Google… you’re certain to agree with the sentiment. Even more to his “one of the guys” persona, he picks out a gentleman in the crowd and acknowledges that he has noticed the fan singing every single lyric. Kim proceeds to say that in all his years on stage, he has never seen this, and he genuinely thanks the fan for being just that.

From a sound perspective, I’ve already alluded to it a couple times. The band was tight. Bang on, and they sounded fantastic. Mitchell nails the guitar solo on “That’s The Hold”, Peter Fredette’s deep heavy bass on “All We Are” and ex-Supertramp keyboardist Kevin Anderson’s solo on “Paradise Skies” is superb. As the band plays the lesser-known Max Webster track “Blue River Liquor Shine”, I get completely immersed in the sound. This is the music of real music lovers. Simply amazing.

Peter Fredette, Kim Mitchell, Biltmore Theatre, Oshawa, Canada, classic rock, rock, rock and roll, Max Webster, guitar, bass guitar, band, Canadian Band, Canadian Musicians, classic
Kim Mitchell performing at The Biltmore Theatre in Oshawa, Canada on February 19, 2023. Photo Credit: Jay Broderick

But what of the vocals? Kim Mitchell is 70 years old, and his vocal range was as though he were 40 years younger. I was completely amazed. I’ve seen some great older dudes belt them out over the past handful of years, but Kim’s performance was quite the spectacle. Bassist Peter Fredette was not to be outdone by Kim however. On the aforementioned tracks “That’s a Man” and “All We Are”, Fredette belted out the tracks in spectacular fashion.

I get some real deep nostalgic feelings when I attend an event such as this. Often I get caught up in the questions of “Will we ever see artists like this again?”, and “How long can these guys keep this up?”, and it makes me sad. But only for a minute, as I quickly bring myself back to the present. We can’t worry about tomorrow. We must focus on TODAY! And enjoy every ounce that we can.

It’s what happened in Oshawa on February 19, 2023. Kim fondly thanks the crowd at the end of the night and says “We hope to see you again soon”. WE hope so Kim! We hope so!!

SETLIST
Rocklandwonderland
Rock & Roll Duty
That’s a Man
That’s the Hold
Best I Never Had
High Class in Borrowed Shoes (Max Webster song)
Diamonds Diamonds (Max Webster song)
Paradise Skies (Max Webster song)
Blue River Liquor Shine (Max Webster song)
I Am a Wild Party
Patio Lanterns
All We Are
Go for Soda

Encore:
Lager and Ale

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Show Date: February 19, 2023

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Hailing from Toronto, Ontario Canada, Jay Broderick is a photographer/writer, and music lover. At 14, Jay's musical interest quickly focused on hard rock, and metal. This was the golden age of metal music and by 15 Jay was listening to the Monsters of the genre like Metallica, Slayer, Venom, Celtic Frost, Bathory, Megadeth and fellow Canadian favorites Sacrifice. With age, his musical interests have broadened to cover all genres, although the aforementioned remains his go-to. Add in a new love for photography at a much later date, Jay has been schooled at Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario Canada in photography and is currently Vice President and Contests & Clinics Director of the Ajax Photography Club.