January 2006

Gregg Lawless | Duets etc.
January 28, 2006Hugh's RoomToronto
by Andy Frank with photo by José Romelo Lagman
Forty-year-old Gregg Lawless is so accomplished and comfortable in his musical skin, he was able to bring off a magnificent tour de force Saturday night before a full house at Hugh’s Room.

Gregg Lawless Duets etc. presented music from three different Lawless musical incarnations: (Gregg solo, the "Songs in the Key of Canada" band, and the "The Unforgettable Whachamacallits"), to which he added a half-dozen duets, and topped it all off with a medley of 1970’s Canadian AM radio hits. A medley! Who does medleys?

Gregg Lawless, that’s who. The same person who invited a Juno-Award-winning horn section to perform “All Shook Up”; who invited the reigning Maple-Blues-Award-winning male vocalist to do ‘one’ number; who invited an uncle and a cousin to sing a pair of duets with him, and the same person who had an accordion play lead on “Born to be Wild” in a medley!

He even had the audacity to invite Kevin Zarnett to play, solo, “Straw House” from Gregg’s most recent CD, Something Beautiful, and joined the crowd in genuine admiration of Zarnett’s gorgeous interpretation. “Thanks, Kevin — OK, I’ll never play that song again.” joked Lawless. This was one of a number of highlights contained in Duets, etc. that left the audience satiated.

Emotional highlights included the duet Gregg performed early in the evening with his childhood hero, Uncle Don Lawless (Gregg’s other hero was Elvis). This was book ended nicely by Gregg’s younger cousin Mike with a pair of duets in the second set. The sentimental and emotional meter entered the red-zone late in the evening with the presentation of abbreviated interpretations of wonderful old songs by The Band, Joni Mitchell, The Guess Who, Steppenwolf, BTO, Gordon Lightfoot, and Blood Sweat and Tears.

This reviewer, however, lives for the musical highlights, and there were many. Gregg’s solo work was splendid; any time bassist (and CBC darling) Suzie Vinnick opened her expressive mouth in lead or harmony, she delighted; and it was a treat to feel the power of Juno Award winning sax players Sean O'Connor and Kenny Kirkwood up close.

Harmonica-virtuoso Paul Reddick’s blues set showed everyone in the room why he won the 2005 Maple Blues Award for Male Vocalist of the Year. (Suzie Vinnick won a similar award recently, which made the enjoyment of their trio with Gregg Lawless all the more special).

Gregg Lawless
However, sometimes the highlight of a concert like Duets etc. comes from a least expected source, someone whose name didn’t even appear on the bill, and whose duet with Gregg was spectacular. Georgie Donais, the former lead vocalist for an early-nineties band called 49 acres, is an old friend of Gregg’s. Their bilingual ballad, "Camille Claudel", accompanied perfectly by accordion player Steve Klodt, delivered a 10,000 goosebump experience.

The common denominator throughout the show, of course, was Gregg Lawless, a brilliant songwriter whose original works these talented performers felt completely at ease interpreting with their own distinct energies. It’s no wonder they all came out to play — even a medley!

It leaves me to conclude with this thought: Genuine confidence, like that displayed by Gregg Lawless on January 28th at Hugh’s Room, is devoid of ego.

The players
Gregg Lawless | Steve Briggs | Kristin Briggs | Sean Cotton
Georgie Donais | Mark Kelso | Kenny Kirkwood | Steve Klodt
Dave Lawless | Mike Lawless | Sean O'Connor | Paul Reddick
John Sheard | Suzie Vinnick | Kevin Zarnett


We welcome your comments and feedback
Andy Frank
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José Romelo Lagman
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The Live Music Report

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