Featuring members of four legendary Canadian rock bands, the Stellar Band of Neighbours seemed a safe bet for musical greatness when it played the Duncan Garage Showroom on Wednesday night.
Adhering closely to generic blues and folk formulas in their set, though, the performance by this group of famous friends was a little too safe to ever really amaze.
A CanRock supergroup of sorts, the Neighbours are mostly made up of popular rockers from the 1980s and 1990s. Steven Drake of The Odds and Kevin Kane of The Grapes of Wrath sang and played guitar.
The Tragically Hipís Johnny Fay drummed alongside Simon Kendall of Doug and the Slugs on piano and Hammond organ.
Victoria-based singer/songwriter Wyckham Porteous crooned and strummed while much-younger Del Cowsill enveloped the room in his bass lines.
The bandís playfulness was infectious, imbuing the intimate Showroom with a spirit of camaraderie one would expect from a band of buddies.
Each musician spent the evening with a grin on his face or joking around with each other and the crowd. Kane dropped one-liners between songs and Drake couldnít suppress a cheer when Fay surprised him by ending the bandís opening jam with a slide on the chimes.
The less-than-capacity crowd was mostly middle-aged ó matching the guys on stage ó and enthusiastic. Heads bobbed. Cheers of approval were screamed. Numerous autographs were sought during a long intermission. And a standing ovation brought the Neighbours out for an encore.
Mop-headed Kane led the vocals on Waiting to Fly, a jangly pop song that stood out from the other more-formulaic tracks. Seated on a stool in a trilby hat, button-up shirt and short tie, Drake played bluesman for the night while smiling his vocals on the humorous Three Women or soloing through one of the setís extended jams.
Songs led by Porteous seemed dated, feeling like they were assembled in a folk-by-numbers kit bought 30 or 40 years ago. Oppositely, when Vancouverite Cowsill took lead vocals on two songs, the band became fresh and modern. His fast-paced, high-energy Autobahn was a highlight.
After an encore that included a Kane-led cover of T. Rexís Get It On, Drake closed the show by singing the Odds hit Eat My Brain, which the crowd appropriately devoured enthusiastically.
The song outshone the rest of the nightís mostly forgettable tunes, giving an example of the talent that stood on stage, but also demonstrating that as a group, the Stellar Band of Neighbours were ultimately less than the sum of its parts.