|Burton Cummings (QMI Agency file photo)
TORONTO -- Leaving Massey Hall Thursday night, many people might have said Burton Cummings was one of the greater things since sliced bread.
However, the 63-year-old rock icon would probably say it was in fact Toast.
Having lost his longtime dog Toast unexpectedly last Sunday after 17 years, Cummings – sporting a t-shirt with a picture of his “angel with paws” -- played a passionate 155-minute set that went way over curfew. But since he had already paid the fine, “might as well have some f------ fun!”
That he did along with a near-capacity crowd.
The concert – part of Canada's Walk Of Fame festival which sees Cummings receiving a second star this weekend – was also being recorded for a forthcoming Live At Massey Hall album and television special. Yet early on Cummings and his heavy heart was initially far from pleased with his keyboard sound.
“This sounds so different than ever before,” he said following the opening No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature. “But being the true professional, I'll just carry on.”
Looking no worse for wear after four decades in the business and with pipes that showed no rust, the singer and his seasoned five-piece band breezed through Albert Flasher and the slower, steadying Clap For The Wolfman as Cummings told brief stories between each song.
Yet the first real highlight was Timeless Love, a rather tender number Cummings knew he'd have a hard time performing given the recent loss. Wiping away tears and stating what happened with a huge lump in his throat, Cummings nailed the number beautifully to a rousing standing ovation.
“This isn't a eulogy, this is a concert at Massey Hall,” he said prior to the pace-changing, rollicking boogie My Own Way To Rock and Runnin' Back To Saskatoon.
Although with his longtime Guess Who cohort Randy Bachman now busy with Fred Turner, Cummings mentioned his pal often throughout. Whether before Laughing or the mellow Undun, he was quick to give praise.
As a result, the evening was well paced despite the title track off his latest album Above The Ground getting the least reaction. A solo set with Cummings at his keyboard had him polishing off the swinging Shiny Stockings, the gentler I Will Play A Rhapsody and even a cover of Mack The Knife.
Other highlights included Stand Tall with band in tow and a lengthy American Woman that had some people heading for the exits. By then Cummings was getting a second wind, extending the evening with a series of audibles in the foot stomping cover of The Equals' Come Back, These Eyes, Louie Louie and Share The Land.
Taking a bow with his group, the singer held up one finger to have a go at When You Wish Upon A Star, culminating in a dreamy night for fans and a “very healing evening” for the star.
The festival continues with concerts at Massey Hall by Chantal Kreviazuk and K'naan on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively.
No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature
Clap For The Wolfman
Guns, Guns, Guns
My Own Way To Rock
Above The Ground
Runnin' Back To Saskatoon
I Will Play A Rhapsody
Mack The Knife
Hand Me Down World
Break It To Them Gently
Baby, Come Back
Share The Land
When You Wish Upon A Star
RATING: 4 (out of 5)