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Blue Rodeo aims for gold medal show

Toronto band performs at Whistler Olympic plaza on Saturday, Aug. 29



Blue Rodeo's last concert in Whistler was unforgettable and it wasn't just because the music was good.

The Toronto band came on stage during the 2010 Winter Olympics just after Team Canada's Sidney Crosby scored the gold-medal-winning goal in men's ice hockey.

"We went on right after that," recalls bassist Bazil Donovan.

"We were watching the game, thinking that if they lose it is going to be horrible. If they win, it's going to be fantastic. And it was a fantastic show."

Now celebrating its 30th year, Blue Rodeo has brought home seven Juno Awards over the years, and received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2014.

Donovan, along with vocalists and guitarists Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor, has been with the band all the way through its career.

Blue Rodeo's first show in Whistler was at Buffalo Bills in the 1980s.

"We've had a long history in Whistler. In the early days we used to do a lot of shows, every winter we'd be out there playing the convention centre," Donovan says.

"Now we don't get back as much as we used to but it is always nice to get back there and play."

They perform a free concert as part of Whistler Presents on Saturday, Aug. 29, at 7:30 p.m. at Whistler Olympic Plaza.

The tour that brings Blue Rodeo to the resort is a weekend thing, with the band staying home in Toronto during the week.

"I think we played nine out of 10 provinces this summer. It's like little snapshots of the country. We play mostly festivals. It started in Surrey (B.C.) on Canada Day and then we went to the (Calgary) Stampede. After that it was the Regina Folk Festival the following weekend, then Winnipeg's Interstellar Rodeo, and then one in Montreal, then in Newfoundland," Donovan says.

"We've basically been hopping all around the country, playing one show here, two shows there. We take the rest of the week off. It's OK. Some weekends are a little hectic, so by the time you get home it takes you a couple of days to recover."

It begs the question about what they are doing during the week.

Donovan says Blue Rodeo has a live album coming out in the fall — Blue Rodeo Live at Massey Hall — and they are preparing to go into the studio for their 14th album, their first since 2013's In Our Nature.

The new release is expected to come out sometime in 2016.

"I think we're in the studio recording new material all of September and October," Donovan says.

"We want to know that by the time it comes out we have taken the time we need to do it. We never really know what we are going to do until we start doing it. Usually in the middle of recording it will hit us whether we want to take a more acoustic approach or electric approach, or if we see a theme emerging in some of the songs that will dictate what kind of record it will be."

He says Cuddy and Keelor tend to have songs already written by the time they come together to record.

"We're good to go with 12 songs already, but I hope that this time we're going to have a lot more. When it's said and done, we'll listen to them and pick what we want on the record; which ones fit together," Donovan says.

He says he writes songs, too, but Blue Rodeo tends to make the writers sing their own work, and Donovan doesn't like his voice.

"The deal is if you write it, you've got to sing it. I've written with other people, people I co-write with. I do a lot of arranging in Blue Rodeo, but not much writing," he says.

Not surprisingly, the relationships in the seven-piece band have evolved, just as their music has.

"We don't really have to state the obvious anymore. Working has become pretty easy, actually," Donovan says.

"You know when something is good and when it's not, you don't have to argue about it. If something is not finished, we should all know it now. We give it a rest and then come back to it."

This sense of maturity, as well as friendship, means they can come back to a song months later, when someone solves the problem with it.

"Sometimes songs get 80 per cent of the way and then get stuck. It takes one little thing, like a bridge, to send it home," he says.

"We know we don't have to force it on the record anymore. And we're more relaxed about it, too. It used to be that we had to get a record done. But when you have 13 or 14 of them out there, you don't have to rush to release anything."


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