At the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver on Friday, December 20
If the chrome door handles in the shapes of Fender Stratocasters weren't a dead giveaway, the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver—actually situated in nearby Coquitlam—is a loving tribute to all things rock 'n' roll. Inside, the familiar visages of Page and Plant, as well as Sirs Jagger and Townshend, observed you from massive silk banners.
Hung on the walls were a hunka-hunka-hell of a lot of pieces of Elvis memorabilia, while classic tracks from Aerosmith and Kiss blasted through the PAs—in the case of the latter, one would hope all night.
The plenty packed grand opening brought out all sorts of characters, from silverfoxes strutting around wearing leopard-print anything, to black T-shirt–wearing long-hairs doubling down at the blackjack tables, to die-hard slot-jockeys a bit too into the zone to realize they were sitting just inches away from Nikki Sixx's wicked Shout at the Devil–era bass guitar.
A raven-haired server in a shimmering black-and-silver paisley dress and leather biker hat combo, meanwhile, served up carb-heavy appies that were quickly scarfed up by ravenous passersby.
With some promise of debauchery just hanging in the ether, it seemed a little dubious, then, that local guys Hedley were brought in to christen the casino with its first proper concert event. While the band is currently riding a high off the recently released Wild Life, the glossy modern pop production and electronic flourishes currently associated with act aren't exactly inspiring anyone to raise a set of devil horns.
Regardless, the screams came full force when the house lights went down and the Abbotsford-bred quartet came out swinging with "Anything", a posi-vibes-soaked whirlwind of big guitar chords, chirpy moog keyboard lines, and beats both mechanical and man-made by drummer Chris Crippin.
A dapper suit-and-tie adorned Jacob Hoggard hopped around during the number, telling people in a nursery rhyme-styled cadence to follow their dreams, whether that means being "an Xbox tester or an astronaut in space." Between those lines and a juvenile chorus of "na na nas", it's truly one of the stranger Canadian singles to hit the radio in quite some time. The sold-out crowd ate it up, though, especially one lime-haired fan up front who managed to get a quick pic of the singer and him together on his iPhone.
During "One Life", which also mixed Dave Rosin's six-string riffs with screeching synths piped in via the overheads, Hoggard further worked the faithful by doing high jumps, a series of gracefully leggy pirouettes and lunging out towards fans to hold hands.
Despite the showman's in-between song sweetness, thanking the hometown audience for coming to their last show of the year, Hoggard got a little raunchy during "Don't Talk to Strangers", pantomiming the dirty dangle of his phantom penis as he praised the yoga-toned ass of a "cougar on the prowl".
There were high energy moments to be had, but the entrance of a mirror-plated piano mid-set brought forth an arsenal of mood-drooping ballads like "Perfect", "Invincible", and a brief bit of Rihanna's "Stay". After a brief exit, an encore of "Sweater Song" started off with a folky shuffle, but got juiced up with a cannon-loud kick drum and cranked amps by song's end.
An acoustic guitar-toting Hoggard, meanwhile, channelled Elvis with some hip-wrigglin', a move apparently so swoonworthy that it yielded a bra toss. Soon enough, the heavily tattooed frontman was shirtless and cracking wise about being drunk enough to basically hook up with anybody.
Somehow, the encore alone brought forth the sex, the drugs, and, sort of, the rock 'n' roll. It wasn't as dangerous as seeing a Bud-and-blood soaked performance at a dive bar, of course, but for the context of the night, Hedley managed to pull it off.
Maybe, like the quartet had suggested in song an hour-and-a-half earlier, it can do anything.