Local music fans were treated to some of the most popular rock songs in Canadian music history, as well as stories about the music, during a concert with the Burton Cummings Band on June 15 at Spectra Place.
Cummings gained fame as the lead singer and a songwriter with the Guess Who in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and then continued to thrive in a solo career that began in the mid-1970s. He played many hit songs during a two-hour concert at Spectra Place that served as a celebration of music and the people who write it.
He opened the concert by playing "No Sugar Tonight," which was one of the most popular songs released by the Guess Who.
And he revealed to the audience the background for some of the songs, including "Laughing," which was on the Guess Who's second album. It was one of the most important songs the band ever released.
"It gave us the faith that we actually might be able to stick around for a while," said Cummings.
Cummings and fellow Guess Who member Randy Bachman wrote the song in 30 minutes. He said it seems like just yesterday that they were accepting a gold record from Dick Clark on "American Bandstand" for "Canned Wheat," the album that featured "Laughing."
"The wonder of it all to me is – and there's not a day goes by that I'm not thankful – our records have never gone away," he said. "We were getting gold records in the 1960s, and they're still big today. I still hear those songs every day on the radio."
"Laughing" was the first song the Guess Who released after their breakthrough hit, "These Eyes."
"When you're a kid in your first band, you would never consider that you'd be lucky enough to have one of those songs (like 'These Eyes'),'" Cummings said. "Well, this was a breakthrough for us, and for Canada in a way. And it's a memory for which I'm eternally grateful. And it's a long time ago, so the high notes might not quite what they used to be, but I would rather try and do this, than not do it at all."
The song drew tremendous applause from the audience.
Cummings continued to play widely recognized songs, including "Stand Tall," which he described as a great way to start a solo career, "Runnin' Back to Saskatoon," which he said was praised by the Toronto Star as "the first truly Canadian rock and roll song," and "My own Way to Rock," which he described as "straight-ahead, kick-ass rock."
He wrapped up the concert by playing "American Woman," which was the Guess Who's biggest hit in the U.S., and "No Time," which was another popular Guess Who song. The Burton Cummings band then returned for a one-song encore.
Fans were encouraged to take pictures and record Cummings' performance, which is different from many other recording artists and touring performers. But as Cummings reasoned, he'll know he's finished when people don't want to record him.
He closed by encouraging the fans to remember how lucky they are to live in Canada.
"Don't ever forget, for one second, how lucky you are to live in a place like this. All you have to do … any day of the week, is turn on CNN for 10 minutes, and you'll be ready to go outside and kiss the ground."
Cummings' appearance was one of the first for the "Your Backyard" tour. It'll take his band to several Canadian provinces and U.S. states this summer.
Canadian pop-punk band Simple Plan will be the next concert at Spectra Place on Sunday, August 12.