A&E » Arts

Kim Mitchell to the Max



‘A good time and a good sweat without the pain’

Who: Kim Mitchell and WDC

Where: Buffalo Bill’s

When: Thursday, Aug. 21

It must be hard living up to titles like "Canadian Icon" or "National Living Treasure" and even "King of the Hosers" but for the Great White North’s own rock ’n’ roll royal, Kim Mitchell, they are "words you can’t take too seriously".

And you’d better believe him because this guy has seen it all. From the hard partying, hard playing days as Max Webster’s front man to the solo sensei of the summertime scene in the ’80s and ’90s, Mitchell explains his own legacy: "You know, I think we’re all the same in this country and have the same stuff we have to struggle with, need the same stuff to make us laugh and let our hair down and we all have a job to do. Mine just happens to be on stage.

"I look at the labels the press come up with for me and look at it all in a humorous way. When they say I’m an icon, I say it’s more like I just won’t go away. I’m like an apple in a bucket of water that you push down and it just keeps bobbing up for more action," he laughed down the phone from the guitar room at the back of his travelling tour bus.

With more than 20 years of touring, 14 albums, three Junos and countless gold and platinum hits under his lean and fit-for-over-40 belt, Mitchell is still doing what he does best. Playing kick-ass rock ’n’ roll. A consummate road warrior, Mitchell and his band of seasoned musicians regularly take off for stops not only in the major cities but to every easily forgettable suburb in between to say thanks to the fans who never want to let go.

"I have people who have been out to see my show, no joke, 30 or 40 times," he said. "I have one guy in London, Ont. who has seen me play 63 times, so that’s quite an honour for a performer to have that sort of lifetime loyalty."

Mitchell makes sure he gives the fans what they want every time, including many of the hits that made him so famous. Patio Lanterns, Go For Soda, All We Are and Rock N Roll Duty are as rapturously received today by the crowds as they were at Mitchell’s peak, and they are hits he still enjoys performing.

"I never tire of them because every night I’m out there I feel like I’m in rock ’n’ roll wonderland with a great band beside me," he said.

But fans can be fickle types and I imagine it’d be hard to please everybody in a two-hour set that pulls from three decades of hits, but he gives it his best shot all the same.

"Where ever we go, we always try and throw in a couple of the obscure tracks for the die-hards out there. I try and feed off what people say to me after the show and take that to heart when we go into rehearse the next night’s set list so it’s never the same. I’ll even ask people what they want to see live on the Web site before we arrive."

For those Canadians who may be recent imports or who led a sheltered life without radio, TV or newspapers, here’s a picture of Kim Mitchell that might help you. Think album titles like I Am A Wild Party, a greatest hits collection that summed up not only the rocker’s lifestyle but the concerts all the long-haired, ripped jeaned rockers of the last three decades were about to go to. Think energetic stage antics and eye-googling guitar work. Think songs about the good times, sung in spandex with flowing long locks.

So does he miss those days?

"In terms of my hair, I miss it period. It all fell out in my mid to late 20s. I got real self conscious about it for a long time and then one day went fuck it and shaved it all off and I’ve been a No. 1 buzz ever since. I don’t care any more," he laughed with the comfort of a man who’s walked many miles.

Just like the rest of us, Mitchell has grown up, got better and gone forward.

"I feel better now than I did when I was in my late 20s to 30s because back then I lived the life of rock ’n’ roll excess, you know – wine, women and song and eventually I was starting to turn into Elvis Presley. You need to clean up and behave yourself before it’s too late, otherwise you just turn into a big bag of poo," he warned.

While Mitchell may not be revelling in the heathen pleasures of his hey day anymore, he’s still churning out top quality albums. Okay, so they don’t have the mainstream pop rock appeal that’s needed to get on air in this era but then again, do they need to? His audience is not exactly the ones watching Much Music or listening to the local rock station anyway.

It’s the moms and dads who grew up to his soundtrack. It’s fellow musicians who admire his talent. It’s true rock ’n’ rollers who appreciate his ability and it’s anyone else with an open mind and a quest for a quality product, and that’s exactly how Mitchell likes it.

"I don’t put pressure on myself anymore. I’m too old and too self- indulgent now," he said. "I just play what I like to play, take it on the road when time allows, spend time with my kids and lead a good life as best I can."

Catch Kim Mitchell at Buffalo Bill’s this Thursday night, Aug. 21. Tickets are $20 with tax. Phone 604-932-6613. Whistler’s No. 1 rock ’n’ roll party band WDC will set the tone right from 9 p.m.