Landing somewhere in the space between a rock concert and a telethon, we have the concert for tsunami relief, benefiting the victims of the tragedy in South Asia. Hosts Brent Butt of Corner Gas and Canadian icon Rick Mercer engaged in playful banter between sets as a who's who of Canadian pop stardom donned the stage. After an awkward opening set by an unceremoniously not-introduced band, the night's festivities were set to begin.
Bruce Cockburn, first to grace the stage, received a surprisingly warm reception, since most concert-goers appeared to be too young to know him well. The godfather of Canadian singer-songwriters effortlessly filled the Saddledome with just his acoustic guitar, but refused to play any upbeat songs, citing the "lack of appropriateness" of such a thing during this solemn evening.
This would be an unfortunate theme throughout nearly the rest of the concert. After Cockburn's set was cut criminally short, Chantal Kreviazuk graced the stage with husband Raine Maida in tow. After an admirable attempt at "Bridge Over Troubled Water", their set ended abruptly with an embarrassing attempt at a sing along during Our Lady Peace's "Innocent". After pleading with the crowd to sing the chorus with him three or four times, Maida just walked off stage followed quickly by his wife. In the best unintentional comedy moment of the night, Maida breezed by Brent Butt who was trying to interview him backstage, apparently unaware that the interview was being broadcast on the monitors in front of the live crowd.
Not until the Barenaked Ladies hit the stage did the energy in the 'Dome really picked up. The Ladies brought some much needed levity to the evening, not concerned with offending anybody with their upbeat pop. People were so reserved when they hit the stage, singer Ed Robertson actually had to tell people it was okay to stand up. By the time they left, the crowd was in as much of a frenzy as the Barenaked Ladies were capable of producing. Their set was heavy with their late-'90s hits, but the best moment was the inevitable collaboration with Bruce Cockburn on "Lovers In A Dangerous Time". It should also be noted the Ladies engaged the crowd in a much more successful sing along during "If I Had A Million Dollars". Unfortunately, the band didn't do any favours for headliner Sarah McLachlan, who was met with a mild reaction after their high energy set. Despite the tepid response at times, McLachlan's set was a flawless if an unexciting affair, rifling through her catalogue to play old and new hits.
One thing never lost on the performers or the crowd was the cause. The concert for tsunami relief can be considered an overwhelming success, after three shows (two in Vancouver, one in Calgary) over $3 million was raised to help South Asia's recovery. Now if somebody would just explain to me why Rick Mercer is famous.