More on The Headstones Flight Risk tour (Photos and review)

[As The Headstones continue their pre-Christmas concert blitz, Ross MacDonald and Karen Coughtrey were on band in Ottawa. – AC]

Arcana Kings ottawa

Saturday, December 17th saw the second of two sold-out Ottawa shows and the second last show of the Headstones‘ Flight Risk tour at the Bronson Centre. The second show gathered a slightly bigger crowd than the first since the fans attending the Friday night show had to contend with Ottawa’s first big snowstorm of the season, but attending the Saturday show also had the advantage of knowing it would be a great night when there were loud cheers when asked who was attending for the second night in a row. 

The auditorium filled up long before the show was to start and the humid hall was humming with the noise of the mostly Gen Xers getting rowdy and ready for the great night ahead.

The night got off to an extraordinary start with Regina band Arcana Kings. Suspenseful string music with choral chanting welcomed Arcana Kings to the stage with lead singer Johnny McCuaig literally leaping onto the stage and bringing the band to life. The energy was catching as they opened with their lively single ‘Here We Go’ followed by ‘Friend Of Mine.’

Arcana Kings ottawa

Often at a rock show the crowd sees dueling guitars but tonight they were treated to something more unique and saw dueling guitar vs bagpipe. The bagpipes add a unique sound to their music and naturally bring a certain energy but Johnny did switch them out for a guitar to play ‘Mother’ and ‘Love of Son’ which although still rocking were less frantic and felt almost mellow in comparison.

The crowd was treated to a new song, ‘Soldier On’, to be released in 2023 which Johnny dedicated to all Canadian service men/women in attendance and explained that they had help writing the lyrics by members of the Soldier On program including a woman named Sarah who was in the audience. The beginning of the song was reminiscent of a military march and the bagpipes certainly give the song that extra military feeling.

Arcana Kings ottawa

Arcana Kings capped off their set with an excellent cover of AC/DC’s ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Want To Rock and Roll)’ and ‘Thunderstruck’ mashup, with of course the bagpipes giving it their own unique sound.

Arcana Kings ottawa

As great as Arcana Kings were (and one really couldn’t have asked for a better opening act), Headstones had no trouble demonstrating why they are a headlining band that has been around and greatly appreciated for years.

The stage lights glowed red as choral music with monastic chanting welcomed Headstones to the stage. Lead singer Hugh Dillon would declare they were “Back in ******* Business” before opening with the tour title song ‘Flight Risk’ and moving straight into ‘Pinned You Down.’

Headstones ottawa

In fact Hugh would not talk much to the crowd between songs but no one doubted his dedication to the audience as he occasionally shared anecdotes of past visits to Ottawa but mostly he connected with the crowd by joining them. On several occasions he performed while meandering through the crowd, and even offering fans the money shot as he hopped up to sing from atop the bars on either side of the auditorium. 

Headstones ottawa

During a medley of covers including The Tragically Hip’s ‘New Orleans is Sinking’, Folk Song ‘House Of The Rising Sun’, and War’s ‘Low Rider’, Hugh even made his way out of the auditorium and up to serenade the crowd below by joining the audience in the balcony.

Headstones ottawa

Hugh would also encourage singing along and reached the mic way out into the crowd on ‘**** You,’ ‘Cubically Contained,’ ‘Devil’s On Fire’, and ‘Cemetery.’ His dedication to making it a night to remember was evident. “I hate lazy rock bands” he said “I remember seeing bands like Bachman Turner Overdrive, Canadian bands really rock!” Those bands would certainly agree and feel Headstones are doing well to follow in their footsteps and dedication to rock and a great show.

Headstones ottawa

The band played several songs off their new album including the title track, ‘Headlight Holds A Deer’, ‘Everything Or Nothing At All’, and ‘Tangled’ which were all well received and you couldn’t tell the difference in crowd reaction from the new songs to old favourites like the band’s Canadianified cover and radio hit of the Travelling Wilburys’ ‘Tweeter and the Monkey Man’.

Headstones ottawa

The show should perhaps come with a warning for those susceptible to lighting effects as the strobing lights flashed as fast and furiously as the music and overall the lighting was dark and Hugh appeared as if in shadow for much of his on stage performance. 

To the delight of the crowd, Hugh pulled out an expertly played harmonica on ‘When Something Stands For Nothing’ and ‘Long Way To Neverland’.

Headstones ottawa

When the band returned for the encore they announced they would be recording it for a live album and the crowd was happy to sing loud on ‘Three Angels’ and a mashup of ‘Smile and Wave’ and Barry McGuire’s ‘Eve of Destruction.’ The singing was so enthusiastic that it was pointed out, (that the crowd at the back at least could hear,) a beautiful harmonic had been created between the low ceiling and back wall. And with that, and a smile and wave from Hugh, it was time to say goodnight.

Hugh Dillon – vocals, harmonica
Trent Carr – guitar, backing vocals
Tim White – bass, backing vocals
Steve Carr – keyboards
Jesse Labovitz – drums

Arcana Kings
Johnny McCuaig – lead vocals, bagpipes, rhythm guitar
James Picton – lead guitar, backing vocals
Allan Morrison – rhythm guitar, vocals
Kevin Kyle – bass, backing vocals
Graham Templeman – drums, backing vocals

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.

Alan Cross has 38159 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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