Photos and a review of Anyway Gang performing on the CP Holiday Train

[More from photographer Ross MacDonald and reviewer Karen Coughtrey. – AC]

Once again at this time of year the 2023 CP Holiday Train has started its tour of Canada and the United States. The current leg started on Monday 27 November and the second stop of the day was the small town of Merrickville Ontario, 45 minutes south-west of Ottawa. And the musical guest was none other than Canada’s alt-rock supergroup Anyway Gang.

Over two thousand fans had gathered waiting for the Holiday Train, effectively doubling the population of the small town. The weather cooperated with recent flurries and temperature near freezing as the brightly lit train slowly came to a stop on the tracks beside a large parking lot. The train arrived exactly on time, bell clanging, horns blaring, and all the brightly coloured lights covering the engine and cars. The countless children, with bulky snowsuits and bright red cheeks, came to life cheering, clapping, and pointing at the train to their parents / grandparents, to ensure they didn’t miss seeing it too.

After about ten minutes of banging and clanging, the side of one of the boxcars dropped and out popped Anyway Gang dressed in winter coats and Christmas toques. The band arranged themselves at the front of the stage in alphabetical order from left to right: Dave Monks (from Tokyo Police Club), Chris Murphy (from Sloan), Sam Roberts (with his own Sam Roberts Band), and Menno Versteeg (formerly of Hollerado). They started the show in high gear with their hit single ‘Big Night’, everyone alongside the train singing along in the chorus.

As Menno and Sam said, they put together the band as a bunch of friends to play fun music together, and fun was the theme of the evening. Plus there is a playful banter between Dave, Chris, Sam, and Menno that carried over to the audience, especially the kids. The next song was ‘Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer’ (not “Ronald” as Chris thought).

The evening continued with a mix of Christmas songs and songs from the band members catalogues. Menno introduced Sam Robert’s song ‘We’re All in This Together’ as a song about community which is especially important at this time of year.

After ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’, it was Chris’s turn to lead a song, one of his Sloan hit singles ‘The Rest of My Life’. Everyone was singing along to the popular song, but were especially vocal at the line “One thing I know about the rest of my life, I know that I’ll be living it in CANADA!!”

The upbeat music and dad-jokes were exactly what everyone needed to keep warm. And if three guitars, and a bass, weren’t enough sound, Anyway Gang were backed up on stage by Menno’s former bandmate Nixon Boyd on guitar, as well as Adam Hindle on drums.

Importantly, the CP Holiday Train isn’t just about fancy lights and beautiful music. At each stop, CP makes a donation to the local food bank and encourages attendees to also donate food and money. Since its inception in 1999, the CP Holiday Train has raised more than $22.5 million and more than 5 million pounds of food for community food banks across North America.

Just before closing the show, hometown favourite Menno drew cheers from the crowd when he exclaimed that he is from nearby Manotick and used to come to Merrickville often to play hockey. Anyway Gang closed the show with ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’, again with everyone singing along.

CP chose the perfect artists to perform on the Holiday Train this year. Anyway Gang played a great mix of holiday music and alt-rock favourites, adding good humour to get everyone into the spirit of the season.

Dave Monks – vocals, bass
Chris Murphy – vocals, guitar
Sam Roberts – vocals, guitar
Menno Versteeg – vocals, guitar

support from:
Nixon Boyd – guitar
Adam Hindle – 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.

Alan Cross has 38129 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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