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L.A. Beat

“Casual Viewing” distracts 54-40’s Neil Osborne

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 It is always a pleasure to see 54-40 play live. They have a special in my heart as they were one of the first bands I ever interviewed. So seeing them blast 54-40’s Neil Osborne plays “Radio Luv Song.” Photo By Richard Amerythrough a string of their mega-hits like “One-Gun,” “Baby Ran,” and newer hits like “Crossing a Canyon, “She La” and “Love You All,” is like taking a trip back in time 20 -odd years. Several hundred people coming out to Average Joes on a Sunday felt the same way, Sept. 16.

 They started on a high note with “Nice to Love You,” then slowed things down a touch with one of the newer hits, “Crossing a Canyon.”

 Lead singer Neil Osborne seemed a little distracted at first but grinned to the enthusiastic audience “You guys are lucky, today is Sunday, which means it is new song day,” before playing a really catchy alt-country style song called “Waiting,” which seemed more like a song opening act Leeroy Stagger would record rather than classic 54-40.
 The crack band, long time drummer Matt Johnson, lead guitarist Dave Genn, founding bassist Brad Merritt and special guest, the Grapes of Wrath’s Tom Hooper on keyboards, guitar and backing vocals, nailed it though.

 They sang some great multi-part harmonies and pretty much all of the hits were accounted for, though I missed  “Miss You,” “Assoholic,” and my favourite “Lucy.”  They book-ended the new song “Waiting,” with their first smash hit “Baby Ran,” then crashed into  the punk edged “Radio Luv Song,” from 1994’s “Smiling Buddah Cabaret,” as Osborne sort of played acoustic guitar while Genn crashed through the intense power chord riffs of the song.

Osborne got lost in his own world after that through “Music Man,” and the mellower “Take Me Home” then things came to a head about mid-way through the show just after another early hit “One Gun” when Osborne, who can be intense and moody at times, complained he was really getting distracted by the televisions showing an array of sports games in the back room.

“Is anybody really watching those,” he asked. It ended up being a common theme of his between song stage banter.
“I hate competing with those,” he said later on adding he wanted to give himself over completely to the audience.

 But as soon as staff turned off the televisions, it reinvigorated the band, who got new life during one of their biggest hits “She La.”54-40 plays Radio Luv Song. Photo by Richard Amery

They really hit their stride during an extended 10 or so minute jam on“ Since When,” and another on the somewhat ironic “Casual Viewing,” during which Osborne regained his vis comica and got the crowd to sing the chorus with him, asking them “Do you want to be in the band?”

 Bassist Brad Merritt conducted the audience through vocals on “Ocean Pearl,” which officially ended the show.

 They were called back for an encore of “I Go Blind,” which Hootie and the Blowfish famously covered in the mid- ’90s.

 Osborne observed they sing “higher and higher, because they were trying to be Canadian.
“It’s supposed to be high and higher,” he said asking the crowd to sing along with them.

They officially ended with “Love You All,” which segued into a cover of the Rolling Stones hit “Miss You,” on which Tom Hooper sang lead vocals.
 After one woman threw her bra on stage, Osborne laughed “I know how expensive these are, I have daughters, so I’m  going to leave this at the merch table and if you want to claim it you get a free T-shirt.”
He thanked the crowd for singing along with “I Go Blind,” observing that was the first time he could remember an audience singing it the proper way, then ended the show by thanking the crowd for “putting up with his bullshit in between songs” and by thanking Leeroy Stagger for opening the show.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 19 September 2012 15:26 )  
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