Andy Kim Hits All the Right Notes

The one thing that struck me during Andy Kim's Christmas Special, which took place at the Mod Club Theatre in Toronto on Friday, December 2nd, 2005, was the sheer diversity of the guests who took part. And not just in style, but in age as well. Is this a renaissance of sorts for Andy Kim? You bet it is. How could it not be? Especially when we consider the fact that musicians who were not even born when Kim began to write music are self-professed Andy Kim fans.

Let me begin with a refresher in the school of Andy Kim. At the tender age of 16, with nothing but desire and raw talent in his pockets, Kim left his native Montreal for New York City in the late 60s in search of stardom. Many Canadians found themselves in the same predicament as Kim, as there was no Canadian music industry to which local acts could develop their craft. In this light, Andy Kim is a true Canadian rock trailblazer.

Along with Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Guess Who and The Band, Andy Kim was part of a small but dynamic Canadian contingent that found fame in the United States. All have left an undeniable mark on the rock' n roll landscape. Not bad for Crazy Canucks, eh?

With 30 million records sold, countless tours in the United States and a rock anthem under his belt - 'Sugar, Sugar' was recently inducted into the Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame - Andy Kim has returned.

While Toronto and New York have welcomed him back, his native Montreal has ironically remained cool to his comeback. Far from keeping Andy Kim down, he will force people to notice him as he did when Jeff Barry discovered in him over 35 years ago.

This brings us back to the concert. In a sleek black suit that gave off the impression of an elegant Renaissance elder statesmen, Kim kicked off the evening with a rousing rendition of 'Rock me Gently' - a song that brought him a Juno Award in 1974. From that point forward, the tone and mood of the night were set. If there were any among the 550 plus people in attendance who were skeptical, he quickly made them a believer.

This set the stage for an impressive list of Canadian artists to showcase their music. The group included Esthero, Hayden Neale of Jacksoul, Shaye, The Hidden Cameras, Andy Stochansky, Danny Michel, Blair Packham and Jully Black. Fans were also treated to a special guest appearance by Ron Sexsmith, who performed 'What Ever Happened to Christmas?', alongside Kim, a song he co-wrote with Kim.

There was nothing formulaic to the evening. As musicians moved on and off the stage with a flair of what I would call slight unprepared coolness. Whatever it was, when the music started, each of them brought with them a unique element to the concert.

It was a magical night that reminded us how Canadian music continues to thrive and evolve. Indeed, some -including myself as far back as the early 90s - have suggested that there is a Canadian Invasion. After last night, it would be hard to argue with this notion. All we need to do is market our brand of music more aggressively. This, however, is another matter.

Above all, for 2 1/2 hours, many of Canada's musicians, who were barely in existence when Andy Kim began writing music, had a chance to perform with a rock legend. It had to be gratifying for Andy Kim - who influenced so many musicians - as he watched people of another generation connect to his music.

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and what better way to end the night than with 'Sugar, Sugar?' With everyone on stage performing it in a jam session, it was reminiscent of The Band's 'Last Waltz' or whenever great musicians congregate to perform a colleague's song. It was an awesome spectacle that was free of any tackiness that can dangerously make such things ghastly to watch.

As I listened, I observed a young punker pass by and look at the stage. She turned and walked away, though not before giving her opinion to no one in particular, 'This is so cool.' I thought two things to myself after hearing this. This is exactly how Tony Bennett revived his career when he connected to a crowd outside his genre. Indeed, Andy Kim had the aura of a rock'n roll crooner.

The second thing that came to mind, and probably more important in the larger scheme of things, is that Andy Kim belonged. He did not seem displaced artistically or technically with this group of outstanding musicians. This, in my mind, is the greatest accomplishment of the night. Well, that and the fact that proceeds went to charity.

'Sugar Sugar' was the perfect climax for an excellent show. Or was it? Not wanting to call it a night, the performers debated with which song they should continue? They settled on 'Rock me Gently', the song that began the whole affair.

This was, for those who pay attention to such things, symbolic of Andy Kim's career, which has come full circle as he connected with a whole new generation of musicians. If anything, he can watch with pride the vibrancy and brilliance of Canadian music he helped spawn.

1 comment:

  1. I am curious how this post also ended up on my blog Writers in the Mist, and how you show as a contributor when you are not in the member list?


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