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L.A. Beat

The classics never get old for Trooper and Streetheart

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Summer is made for live music. It is also the bread and butter for many “classic rock” bands like Trooper, Lighthouse, Streetheart and Prism, who are all playing Whoop Up Days this year.

Streetheart guitarist Jeff Neill recognizes this fact, so the band, known for late ’70s and early ’80s hits like “Action,” “Snow White,” “Hollywood,” and “What Kind of Love is This,” always play them like they care about them. Which is nothing more or less than the truth, besides, they love them.Streetheart plays Whoop-Up Days this year. Photo by Richard Amery

“People have invested 30 years in this band and the music. When they come, they expect to hear the songs they grew up with,” said a very loquacious Neill in between booking hotels, flights and updating Streetheart’s website.

He knows the fans are what matters. Neill joined the band in 1981 and wrote and recorded their big self-titled record with the lead singer Kenny Shields, keyboardist/ trumpeter Daryl Gutheil and bassist Spider Sinnaeve, which spawned some of the biggest hits of their career including “Snow White.” “Miss Plaza Suite,” and “What Kind of Love Is This.”
They officially broke up in 1984, but officially reformed in 2003 with the original members Neill, Shields and Gutheil.
“It’s fun, but it is also a business. It’s nice that we have the opportunity to do this,” he continued.
“When you are 20-21 you are looking for new music, but when you get older, people want to listen to music they already know,” he said.

“We all do music full time, so it’s not as if we just play on the weekends.”

 They play between 40-50 concerts a year and while they had a busy June and July, they are going to take time off in August.
“ We keep it fresh because the band just takes it one gig at a time. We don’t take that for granted. People may not have been at the gig in Edmonton or Calgary the night before and may not have seen the show we played there,” he said.

 The always busy Trooper also have a busy summer.
“So far the summer tour has been a whirlwind of cross-country flights and brilliant outdoor shows that have been more like parties than performances,” wrote Trooper lead singer Ra McGuire in an e-mail from Penticton, where the band was getting ready to play Peachfest.
Trooper returns to play Whoop -Up Days, Aug. 25.

“Summer shows are pretty much guaranteed to be fun,” he continued describing show like Peachfest as b “bordering on euphoric,”  with people in a vacation mood — as long as the weather co-operates.
They also maintain a connection with their fans young and old through an active Facebook and Twitter presence.
“ We spend a lot of time with our fans on Facebook and Twitter. We've had an active website since 1996 (before eBay, Google and Amazon!) where we started our digital adventure.

Our webmeister is a genius and has helped to create a great community that spans the country (and a couple generations). We also come out after our shows to meet anyone who sticks around,” he wrote. He noted they are getting several different generations at their shows.
“We're at the point where two and sometimes three generations come out to see our show. The crowd right in front of us every night is often all 15-25 year-olds. (As you go further back the age rises (;-)). It's still amazing to see teenagers singing along with songs that were written before they were born,” he continued.

  He has met a lot of people and fans through the years, however some stand out more than others.
“I received a letter once from a fan who wanted to let me know that he and I were twins and that we had been cheated out of our rightful dual-kingship of Canada,” he said.

 Country star Terri Clark is giving the band a renewed boost, releasing a version of their big hit “We’re Here For A Good time (Not A Long Time) which may be why he didn’t answer questions about being a classic rock band. Last year, Universal Records released a new greatest hits album, 'Hits From 10 Albums' to commemorate their 35th anniversary as a band which is selling well.
“It's a more complete collection of our stuff and it's all been remastered, so it sounds a lot better than the Hot Shots CD. It's selling well,” he enthused.

 McGuire also wrote a book about Trooper’s history, “Here For A Long Time,” which he didn’t originally intend to do.
“I've been writing online for years. After a while I was encouraged by the amount of readers I'd accumulated and began trying to focus more particularly on what it was like to be a 50-something rock singer on the road. Insomniac Press called me up one day and asked about turning the blog into a book,” he observed adding response to it has been good.

 They have numerous hits and he  has his favourites. However, some stand out.

“I really like singing 'Thin White Line' in the show. I start the song by myself on acoustic guitar, so every night I can sing it slightly differently ... depending on my mood, the feeling in the air, or the connection I'm making with the audience. Maybe it's a singer thing,” he wrote.

Neill enjoys the challenge of playing the songs, especially ‘Action.”

“I didn’t write that, Paul Dean did, but I enjoy playing it. ‘Tin Soldier” is another one I enjoy and “What Kind of Love is This.” Some nights the crowd sings it back to us. I’m always impressed by the enthusiasm people have for that song,” Neill continued.
 While people love the hits, of course, Trooper isn’t afraid to sometimes sneak new music into the set.
“Writing songs is something I've been doing since I was 11 so it would be difficult to stop. Nowadays we drop new songs into the middle of the set and ask the crowd to rate them. It's pretty much what we've always done. All of the old ones were once new ones,” McGuire observed.
Streetheart just plays the hits.
“ Our set consists of hits. These songs all charted on the radio, so we aren’t playing obscure tracks or playing new music nobody knows Neill emphasized.

Both bands enjoy the live experience.
“Every single show is completely different and every night is a complete adventure. I look forward to them all,” McGuire wrote adding they have fond memories of playing Lethbridge, particularly Whoop Up Days.
“One of our very first tour dates, in the mid-seventies, was a Whoop Up Days show. I have a photo somewhere of the plywood Trooper sign being disassembled after that show,” McGuire recalled.
Neill had to check the website for the last time they played Whoop-Up Days.
“We’re always get great response in Lethbridge, so we look forward to playing there. But it’s been a few years since we played Whoop -Up Days. We’ve created great relationships with the promoters. We’re business partners, they meet and greet us and treat us well, so it’s very important for us to put on a great show,” Neill continued.

“Rock and roll got cynical in the ’80s and rock stars began to think they were superhuman, it was easy to lose track of the people. But we have a lot of fun. We want to meet the people who helped make our career,” he said.

Other Whoop -Up acts include Lighthouse on Aug. 23, Hippodrome plays with Streetheart, Aug 25  with Kenny Shields and Streetheart, Unzipped and Trevor Panczac play Aug. 26 and Who’s Yer Daddy and Prism close the week off, Aug. 27.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
 A version of this story appears in the Aug. 24, 2011 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times
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