Checking up on Big Wreck live in Ottawa

[Another concert report from Ross MacDonald and Karen Coughtrey. – AC]

If you thought there was nothing fun to do in Ottawa this Friday night in February, since the Rideau Canal has yet to open, you were wrong and missed out on a great show at the Bronson Centre featuring Canadian rock band Big Wreck and opener Sierra Pilot, an emerging rock band from Waterloo, Ontario.

Sierra Pilot took the stage seemingly in awe at the size of the crowd at their first-ever show in Ottawa. The band’s single ‘Alive’, released in early 2022, got them increased radio play and on to some bigger stages with renowned rock acts. A meet-the-band video posted five years ago on YouTube has lead singer Taylor Leith mentioning Big Wreck as an influence of the band, so it’s no surprise they were excited to be playing in front of the sold-out crowd of Big Wreck fans, obviously hoping some would turn into Sierra Pilot fans as well. 

Sierra Pilot live in Ottawa

You wouldn’t know the audience was mostly unfamiliar with the band as the audience seemed willing to give them their full attention and they cheered and sang along to songs like ‘Bulletproof’ and ‘Hey Bartender.’ The band’s arena rock influences are clear and demonstrated their rock instrumental capabilities to loud cheers on ‘What You Came For’ but they slowed the frantic tempo down a bit on ‘The Thief’ and ‘Alive’.

Sierra Pilot
 live in Ottawa

They played their brand new single (just released at the end of January) ‘Adrenaline’ which was well received and ended their set on an energetic note with their other new single (released summer 2022) ‘Keys To The City’. If their goal was to gain some new fans, I’d say the mission was likely a success as the crowd gave them lots of cheers and applause and were happy to pose for the band’s selfie. 

Sierra Pilot
 live in Ottawa

Big Wreck however got the audience really rocking and opened with ‘Bombs Away’ off their 2021 ‘EP ‘7.1’, which the crowd was amped for. But they really had the crowd screaming at the top of their lungs for the second song; it’s safe to say their fans still really love ‘That Song’. That hit song had the crowd feeling nostalgic, like in the lyrics, as with the other songs they performed off their hit 90’s album ‘In Loving Memory of…’. A little later they played a mellowed version of ‘Blown Wide Open’.

Big Wreck live in Ottawa

Ian is a man of few words and he didn’t say much to the crowd but yet you could feel that he certainly appreciated the fans and was eager to put on a great show for them. The show was loud and certainly rocking but this fan and observer was also amused by the variety of lighting and in particular the green bean-like shapes that travelled the walls during ‘Beano’.

Big Wreck live in Ottawa

The performances of ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Control’ contained beautiful jam sessions, showcasing Ian’s guitar virtuosity. If he’s going to have a guitar with 22 frets, he darn sure better make use of every one of them.

Big Wreck live in Ottawa

The other band members also had their turn in the spotlight and Sekou Lumumba had impressive drum features on ‘Bombs Away’ and ‘Too Far Gone.’ The band’s current rhythm guitarist Chris Caddell couldn’t play this gig (rumour has it he’s on tour with Colin James) so the crowd was treated to the band’s former rhythm guitarist, Paulo Neta, who demonstrated his skills with a solo on ‘Ladylike’.

Big Wreck live in Ottawa

When is a cover song not a cover song? Big Wreck ended their main set with the band playing ‘Come Again’ from Ian’s band Thornley. However Ian, Sekou, and Paulo were all part of the group Thornley, so it doesn’t really count as a cover song. Although it was clear the crowd had enjoyed the entire performance, ‘Come Again’ had the audience moving even more as if they’d found a new energy. Perhaps trying to indicate to the band they weren’t ready for the night to end.

Big Wreck live in Ottawa

An anonymous fan in the crowd mentioned, that he felt Ian’s legacy was to bring joy to the many in exchange for the one he couldn’t save (referring to the loss he and the band suffered in losing original member Brian Doherty to cancer in 2019) and whether one agrees with that statement or not it seemed pretty clear that band did in fact bring joy to those in the auditorium this night.

Big Wreck live in Ottawa

As they often do, Big Wreck closed out the night with their hit single, and fan favourite, ‘The Oaf’. When Ian started playing his hollow-body guitar, with the reverb turned up, the crowd erupted in cheers. They sang along with Ian throughout the song at the tops of their voices. And at the end, as the guitar continued to hum on top of the Suhr amp, Ian again thanked the crowd before heading offstage.

Big Wreck
Ian Thornley – lead guitar, lead vocals,
Dave McMillan – bass guitar, backing vocals
Sekou Lumumba – drums
Paulo Neta – lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals

Sierra Pilot
Taylor Leith – lead vocals, guitar
Jay Sarrazin – lead guitar
Brent Wilson – bass
Wes Bartram – drums

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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One thought on “Checking up on Big Wreck live in Ottawa

  • Quite a few of us felt that this was one of their best shows!!! We had a awesome time!!


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