TORONTO - Going to see Jim Cuddy is a little like spending a night with an old friend.
It’s comfortable and laid-back and more than a little sweet.
Especially if you see him in Toronto, the subject of his most recent solo effort, Skyscraper Soul, about the much-maligned Canadian city that he calls home.
The 56-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist of Blue Rodeo fame wrapped up his most recent two-month cross-Canada solo tour on Tuesday night at Massey Hall and you could tell he was as excited about being there as his fans were about seeing him.
And on Valentine’s Day no less.
“We thought about throwing out chocolate kisses but there could be peanut allergies and the lactose intolerent,” joked Cuddy, who was joined by a six piece band including Blue Rodeo bassist Bazil Donovan, guitarist Colin Cripps (ex of Kathleen Edwards, who just played the Phoenix on Saturday night) and fiddle-mandolin player Anne Lindsay.
A week after SkyScraper Soul saw Cuddy pick up two 2012 Juno nominations for songwriter of the year and adult alternative album, he slowly warmed up the Massey Hall crowd with a more dynamic second half due in no small part to the playing of Cripps and Lindsay.
Of all things, it was Blue Rodeo’s Five Days in May that really ignited the crowd about an hour into the two-hour-plus show with Lindsay’s electrifying fiddle playing causing the audience to jump to their feet in the first standing ovation of the night.
Otherwise, Cuddy was a generous performer who allowed his band - rounded out by trumpeter Bryden Baird, drummer Joel Anderson and organist-keyboardist Steve O’ Connor - to really stretch out with solos all night long.
He played most of Skyscraper Soul’s material, starting the night with new song, Watch Yourself Go Down, while sprinkling older solo material and Blue Rodeo tunes into the mix.
Unfortunately, the response to Skycraper’s Soul first single, Everyone Watched The Wedding, about William and Kate’s royal nuptials, included a serial clapper and dancer who didn’t seem to understand you shouldn’t do both during a quiet song.
Better suited for a louder reception were the Blue Rodeo uptempo number, Bad Timing, and another new solo song, the bluesy Water’s Running High, which has a bit more grit and found Cuddy impressively hitting a mighty high note at the end.
Cuddy was uniformly in great voice, and even performed solo - something he said he’s never done before in his 25 years with Blue Rodeo and on his solo jaunts - on the older solo song, Pull Me Through which featured just him on piano.
He also poignantly shared lead vocals with Cripps (who designed and made his own jeans for crying out loud, which some of the other musicans were also wearing) on another new standout song, With You, and the remaining highlights were the Blue Rodeo numbers, Till I Am Myself, and Try.
And when Cuddy brought out opening act Doug Paisley, Lindsay and Cripps to the very front of the stage to sing the new song, Wash Me Down, off microphone, it was quite simply a beautiful way to end the night.
The crowd showed their approval by joining in on the chorus.
Watch Yourself Go Down
I Could Never Be That Man
I Still Want You
Everyone Watched The Wedding
All I Need
Banks of the 49
Water’s Running High
Ready To Fall
Five Days in May
The Light That Guides You Home
Pull Me Through
Till I Am Myself
It Could Happen To You
What Is So Wrong
Wash Me Down