Our Lady Peace has seen the enemy. And that enemy is indifference. That enemy is apathy.
That enemy is Van Halen. (Or, more accurately, the fans of Van Halen.)
Some bands might be a tad intimidated by the thought of performing a gig for 5,000 screaming rock fanatics. But that's a walk in the park for Our Lady Peace, which performs a sold-out show at UWO's Thompson Arena tonight. After all, this is a band that's weathered some tough, hand-to-hand combat in the trenches of rock 'n' roll.
This is a band that survived an opening slot on a Van Halen tour.
The supreme test came one night in Minneapolis, when the Toronto-based foursome faced some hard-rock fans renowned for their less-than-ecstatic enthusiasm for anyone other than their revered, veteran string-twisting hero -- Eddie Van Halen.
"I heard horror stories about bands that got chanted off the stage and had stuff thrown at them," says Our Lady Peace guitarist Mike Turner. "We basically had to battle indifference -- overwhelming indifference. Basically, I'd look out (into the audience) and see all these guys with their arms crossed over their chests, looking at me like, 'Dude, you are not Edward.' "
On most nights during the 2 1/2 months with Van Halen, Turner says Our Lady Peace overcame the stony stares of Eddie's army. By the end of most shows, he says, many fans would be nodding their heads to the music, their faces sporting a look of surprised satisfaction.
But that almost all came crashing down -- literally -- during this monster Minnesota show when Our Lady Peace were unable to crack the crowd's indifference.
The crisis came as Our Lady Peace singer/songwriter Raine Maida was introducing the song Starseed, explaining how it was based on a book about automatic writing and creativity and a few other esoteric topics.
"And of course, this crowd just wasn't getting it," recalls Turner. "And Raine kind of lost it and told the crowd off, which might not have been the best idea. He said, 'I don't even know why I'm explaining this to you guys, you're too stupid to understand it even if I did lay it out as clearly as can be.'
"And that's when I found myself praying that the seats were bolted to the floor."
Apparently they were, since no projectiles marked E 12 were rocketed toward the stage.
Turner laughs about it now. But the incident touched something that has helped propel Our Lady Peace into the big leagues of rock.
"We take our music very seriously," he says. "It's everything we've ever wanted, everything we've ever fought for and everything we've ever believed in. So to see somebody treat it with indifference is possibly the most offensive thing you could do to us.
"I'd much rather you got up on your seat and started hating us, because then I know I've made an impact. I've obviously said something clearly enough that you've heard it and disagreed with it."
Judging by its success, a lot of people are hearing Our Lady Peace and liking what they hear. While its 1994 debut album Naveed sold more than 400,000 copies in Canada, national sales of the band's second album, Clumsy, have now exceeded 600,000. Along the way, the band has shared the stage with Bush, Elastica, the Ramones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant and -- just last month -- the Rolling Stones in Quebec City.
But Monday's headlining gig at Thompson arena will be a welcome change.
"I'm so looking forward to this," says Turner. "It's been hard slugging our guts out in small clubs in secondary markets for the last month."
The show also marks a bit of a homecoming for Turner and bassist/keyboardist Duncan Coutts, who both studied at UWO during the mid-'80s (Turner majored in English, while Coutts studied film). But despite some murky memories from his days as a resident of UWO's Saugeen-Maitland Hall, Turner stresses that the band calls Toronto home.
"We've been claimed by pretty much everyone from Halifax to Vancouver," says Turner, who was born in England. "I think it's because we came about without much of a link to any scene. We just sort of toddled on out on our own."
But despite his London links, Turner says he won't be waxing nostalgic.
"There's a lot of memories to be recovered from that era," he says with a laugh. "I've yet to remember them, so reliving them might be a problem."