Saskatoon’s Legendary Rhythm and Blues Revue has been a staple of jazz and blues festivals for years, and it's ready to return to rock Wadena with its joyous soulful sounds this Saturday, February 25. The catalogue is deep and the list of artists honoured is an R&B encyclopedia. Heading back to Wilson Picket, Otis Redding, Etta James, Aretha, Van Morrison and a nod to the Irish cult classic soul film, The Commitments, the Revue has it “covered.”
The band’s predecessor came together in 2006 with bandleader Gord MacAulay a part of the Revue since its inception. In 2012 came a reorganization that saw the departure of original members and new talent coming on board.
“Five of the people in the current lineup have been with the band since 2012,” MacAulay says. “The band came about with just a love and passion for the old R&B. We all loved the songs of the ‘60s and ‘70s rhythm and blues world, and we love horn bands with the sax player and the Hammond organ sound.”
With a setlist including songs by some of the most revered male and female singers in pop music history, you don’t pull it off without some serious pipes behind the mike. MacAulay says that band has that in spades, anchored by lead singer Darcy Grieg, who’s been with the band since 2012.
“Darcy was an absolute Godsend when we found him,” MacAulay proclaims. “When I met him he said he’d never sung R&B, but he loved it - he grew up with it. He’d sung with country and rock bands, but he wanted to give it [R&B] a try. The first time he stepped up to the mike, we all looked at each other, and said, ‘white smoke up the chimney, we got a new singer!’”
MacAulay touts Grieg’s ability to channel Irish legend Van Morrison, whose numbers will be part of the Wadena show.
On the female vocal side, Holly Stasiuk brings her own powerful blend to the mix on the tunes by soul’s great women. Backed by keyboards including the legendary Hammond, guitar, horns, bass and full percussion with renowned Telemiracle pit boss Glenn Enns, the band injects a rich, full orchestration to the works.
The timeless music is finding new audiences, says MacAulay, and it’s been interesting to watch the growing love of the tunes across all age groups.
“What’s been a pleasant surprise with us is that over the last 10 years, we have had an awful lot of 20, 30, 40 year olds coming out. They dance all night, and they tell us that they grew up with their parents playing this music. It’s not on the regular radio stations they listen to, but they know it all. We tend to have audiences of all ages.”
The Revue has a special St. Patrick’s Day show planned for the Bassment in Saskatoon featuring the music from the soundtrack of “The Commitments.” On Saturday night though, the tunes will be flowing in downtown Wadena as the Quill Plains Arts Council brings the vaunted group back to the stage at the Wadena Community Legion Hall. Showtime is 7:30 on Saturday, February 25. Ticket information is available at osac.ca/wadenaartscouncil.