It’s a big leap to go from Casino Nova Scotia’s Schooner Room to the Halifax Metro Centre in the space of a year, maybe Dean Brody has some extraterrestrial powers, as suggested by the cover of his latest gold album Crop Circles.
It turned out he had a little help in digital form, as the Halifax Metro Centre stop on the South Shore-based country star’s Crop Circles & Tractor Beams Tour began with a video clip of Brody begging a CGi alien to end his abduction and get him to the show.
Although he didn’t descend from on high, about 4,000 fans treated the humble singer with boy-next-door charm as heaven-sent when he came out singing Crop Circles, backed by his five-piece band dubbed the Brodeo.
Together they made for a high-energy outfit, perhaps a bit more polished than at the Schooner Room, but still running with some rock and roll injected into the heart of Brody’s well-crafted modern country sound.
“It’s so good to be back home in Nova Scotia,” said the former B.C. resident, who confesses he wasn’t initially aware of the strength of the audience for his chosen genre on the East Coast.
“There’s country pride out here for sure!”
To prove his point, Brody launched into his requisite truck song, Four-Wheel Drive, a topic which is as essential to country these days as surfing was to the Beach Boys. Brody’s take elevates itself above the rabble thanks to his use of 4WD a a romantic metaphor and an uncanny vocal hook, with several ball caps raised in tribute for his efforts.
With one foot firmly planted in good ol’ boy territory, Brody keeps the other in the realm of the sensitive guy, with the affecting ballad Wildflower, and he even waxed philosophically about former friends and lovers.
“Life has it’s own way of doing things,” he mused. “You’ve got these people in your life, and you’re walking the same path, and before you know it, the time goes by and you wonder what happened to them.”
That thought led into Marianne, which took the wistful where-are-they-now subject matter and turned it into a slow-burning rocker that showed off the Brodeo’s ability to showcase their leader’s work at its best.
The same went for his 2008 single Brothers, a tribute to veterans and a depiction of post-traumatic stress that showed early on that Brody could tackle tough material and make it work. With this band it became one of the evening’s most powerful moments, under a video screen image from the Halifax Grand Parade cenotaph, and the material and sentiment were worthy of the standing ovation that followed.
Brody also excels at party songs, and fans responded strongly to Roll That Barrel Out, joining as one in the “day-o” refrain, and It’s Friday, rushing the stage to dance along to the anthem recorded with another Metro Centre favourite, Great Big Sea.
But where Brody truly excels as a songwriter is in his ability to spin a tuneful yarn, like the tale of lovers on the run from the law in his recent Top 10 single Bounty.
Set to a driving locomotive beat, the tune got an assist on Saturday from N.S. singer and contest winner Samantha Power, ably filled in for the recording’s guest vocalist Lindi Ortega. Bonnie & Clyde never sounded so sweet.
By the encore, Brody and the Brodeo had their fans — Brodiacs? — in full-on frenzy mode, climaxing with the moment the singer donned a Team Canada jersey to sing his signature hit Canadian Girls.
Sure, it’s preaching to the choir, but when you’ve got that many voices singing along (to one of the most insanely catchy tunes in recent Canadian country history), you want to keep them as happy as possible.
Cassadee Pope had the honour of opening for Brody, and the Florida-born winner of the third season of NBC’s The Voice got a strong endorsement from the crowd, which indulged her in doing the wave and standing up and dancing to her buoyant tunes.
Never mind that tracks from her solo album Frame By Frame, like the single Wasting All These Tears, are about as country-sounding as … well, as most of Taylor Swift’s recent repertoire. Pope has a lively personality that puts her songs over, even though it was hard to get a strong feeling for the quality of her voice or lyrics in a dense mix didn’t do her any favours.
Things became clearer with a cover of her favourite Canadian artist, Shania Twain’s That Don’t Impress Me Much, but she seemed impressed by her first Halifax visit, and charmingly offered everyone a free hug up at the merch table after her set.