Jazz Festival Review- The Triumphant Return of ‘The Hat-less People’. 

You can decipher the title if you want to but if your friends can’t decipher the title – they are no friends of mine …

Men without Hats energized Club Soda on July 2nd as part of Le Festival International de Jazz even though the beginning was short circuited.

As the familiar sounds and moves of the 1982 smash hit ‘Safety Dance‘ grabbed anyone within earshot of Blvd St Laurent by the tuque, the technological gremlins stopped the show around the letter ‘F’ or … maybe it was ‘E’?

Sometimes mistakes, human or not- can be a blessing in disguise. As if the great ‘promoter’ in the sky ventured down Sunday night ‘ a la friendly giant’ and rearranged the furniture. The stoppage created magic.

Acoustic guitar on stage with brother Colin – ‘Close to the Sun’ bonded performer and audience sooner than later. Given that some in attendance not born when the group were all the rage, an introduction of sorts was called for and delivered. Once-in-a-decade kinda stuff with both band and punter responding professionally to the unkind fickle hand of fate.

Electrifying is the opposite of powerless. If it wasn’t before  – it is now. That adjective precisely explains what Men without Hats did last night to the folks with or without head ware. Led by singer Ivan Doroschuk who , along with the likes of Jagger and Tyler; seems to have found the fountain of youth. The sixty year old front man writhed , danced and writhed some more as he prodded duplicate responses from a more than enthusiastic fan base and crowd.

Pulsating and pounding through the MWH catalog – the band only increasing the energy at Club Soda. Start to finish as the band served tunes such as ‘ I Got the Message ‘, ‘Antarctica’ and ‘ Head Above Water ‘ to the hungry tables, the MWH ‘Cafe Canadienne’ was ‘ in the juice ‘. Ivan – the head waiter , as much a contrast in color as a black and white television in a corporate – named stadium.

Political views ( for most of the tunes), in the forefront with a profound Punk attitude. Rebellious. Anti – establishment codes. Enigmas deciphered by true fans of a movement with a fist in the air. Enigmas defined by the song Safety Dance. Ivan himself- almost a caricature. A Cheshire Cat grinning in true cartoon form.

‘Living in China’ and ‘Pop Goes the World ‘ saved the show from becoming one long song. Perfect choices to break up the dangers of monotony. The ailments which have inflicted every original act since ‘that’ caveman hit ‘that’ rock with another rock. MWH have managed to sustain freshness in their lunchboxes even though it’s been in the trunk for thirty odd years.

Along with Safety Dance , the other bookend which held all the ‘ books ‘ together was ‘ Where the Boys Go’. 

That tune live , from the album Folk of the 80’s ( Part lll ) released in 1984, as powerful as any Clash or Ramones’ tune. Anthem – kinda ingredients. Dangerous rallying chords and calls to action. The men in attendance – thrashing their heads, hands and hearts violently in every direction. Lou Dawson ( keys, vocals), Rachel Ashmore  (keys, vocals ), Sho Murray ( guitar ) and Colin Doroschuk soaking it in and ejecting higher frequencies boomerang style. Club Soda was set afire. 

MWH are smart. 

Their biggest hit ( Safety Dance ) was played as the first song to presumably attract the crowd and to also force the crowd to pay attention to everything after. Their biggest hit was also played last to ‘end the story ‘.  For those who arrived late and came for that tune; bliss ! Planned or not – a brilliant move by the band. 

Following the inevitable outburst for a return to the stage, MWH returned the favor with ‘No Security ‘ and the pleasant ‘ On Tuesday ‘. The latter, a duet performed with Ivan’s niece Sahara Sloan. A delightful dessert to a fulfilling meal at ‘MWH’s Cafe Canadienne’. 

At the end of the shift, the head waiter Ivan, standing with satisfaction.  A hefty tip in hand, a smile on his face and not a hat on his head …


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