Words By: Gerrod Harris
Billed as “And The Experience”, The Phoenix Concert Theater would host a secret I Mother Earth show on Friday, June 17th, their third in a matter of weeks. Many, if not most, discovered the show through a post on guitarist Jag Tanna’s blog, the rest, such as myself, discovered it through word of mouth from a friend. Yes the art of keeping a secret certainly did not stop I Mother Earth fans- many of whom had just seen the band at least one time in the previous weeks- from filling out The Phoenix.
Oshawa natives The Stand Stills took the stage to an unresponsive audience, but the duo very quickly won them over with their heavy grooves and vicious riff based and effect filled rock! Throughout the course of their thirty minute set, the band blasted through a number of songs, each showing a clear influence from Rage Against The Machine and Tom Morello. In a slower number, unfortunately, guitarist and lead singer Jonny Fox faced technical difficulties and he pedal board stopped working, leaving drummer Renee Couture to perform an impromptu drum solo. By this point in their set, the audience was very supportive of them, giving them nothing but love in a moment which could have easily devolved into a far worse response from them. This goes to show how explosive The Standstills proved to be in their short time on stage. I would highly recommend checking this band out. They can also be found opening for I Mother Earth and Our Lady Peace on their upcoming tour.
Opening their set with the backing track of the mainly percussive song, “Hello Dave”, I Mother Earth walked on the stage to the sound of a monstrous roar from the audience and immediately blasted into “Like A Girl”. The show was presented as a secret as a gift to the bands true fans, but also allowed for I Mother Earth to continue celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their landmark record, Scenery And Fish. For this reason, the band played through the album in its entirety in what can be described as an epic performance. Throughout their play through of the record, the band took multiple occasions to jam over the form of the song, giving guitarist Jag Tanna the opportunity to extend his solos into lengthy affairs which were nothing short of astounding. It goes without saying that Scenery And Fish is an excellent album, one which displays a degree of musicianship which many bands of their generation shied away from, but to see such ability and skill in person was truly something to behold. Highlights from their play through of Scenery And Fish included “One More Astronaut”, “Pisser”, “Raspberry” and “Earth, Sky, And C.”. Upon concluding Scenery And Fish, I Mother Earth returned to the stage following an encore break to perform a handful of songs from their debut album, Dig, including “The Mothers”, “Not Quite Sonic” and the explosive “Levitate”.
Returning founding vocalist Edwin sounds exactly as youthful and energetic as he did two decades ago as he belted out the anthem like choruses- of the likes of “Three Days Old”- with their bending melodies and high peaks with ease. His return to I Mother Earth is certainly a welcome one. Nothing against Bryan Byrne in anyway, but to properly commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Scenery And Fish with a reunited band with Edwin for the first time in eighteen years is truly exciting. What astounded me the most, however, was Tanna’s brilliance on the guitar. I’ve seen some of rocks most renowned guitarists live, including Eddie Van Halen, Prince, Mike McCready, Dave Navarro, Slash, and Joe Perry, and I would confidently state that Tanna is among one of the greatest guitarists I have seen. He performs with a certain slinkiness and soul reminiscent of Hendrix, with a level of precision and technical skill similar to the aforementioned Van Halen. His ability to seamlessly improvise a bluesy solo, full of intricate jazz chords and funky rhythms over shifting time signatures, while making it groove so tightly, is truly incredible, original, and inspiring. Simply put, Jag Tanna stole the show for me.
Perhaps what is just as impressive as the collective talent of I Mother Earth is the fact that over the course of a mere few weeks, they were able to sell out The Phoenix Concert Theater on three occasions. Solidified as a cult phenomenon, I Mother Earth has cultivated quite the loyal community of fans. It’s truly impressive that in today’s uncertainty that is the music industry, I Mother Earth can do just that. Upon seeing them for what was my first of what will become many occasions, I can understand just why fans return time and time again to watch one of Canada’s greatest rock bands, ever. I Mother Earth deserves all the praise that many of their peers of the alternative rock scene receive, and in some cases more. What an exceptional display of musical ability and raw energy, one which I can say is was truly spectacular, and greatly surpassed my already heightened expectations.
Stay tuned as I Mother Earth has announced that they will tour with The Stand Stills and Our Lady Peace.