The Year in Review: Months upon months of no concert reviews

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      Looking back on 2020, the year of COVID-19, the worst thing about it was obviously the loss of life. While I'm writing this the worldwide death toll is 1,663,097. While you're reading it it's undoubtedly much, much higher. Don't bother checking. It's too depressing.

      Then there's the whole economic catastrophe that the pandemic has caused. Billions and billions of dollars lost. Maybe trillions. Countless businesses destroyed and jobs lost. All in all, not a lotta fun on the financial front.

      Somehow, though, by the grace of god or whoever's in charge, the lucky among us survived. I managed to avoid contracting the disease, and whether having that catchy old Bee Gees tune "Stayin' Alive" stuck in my head 24/7 helped or not, who's to know.

      One thing I am sure about, though, is that I missed going to concerts in 2020.

      While it has definitely tapered off in recent years, concert-going has been a major part of my life since I started writing for the Georgia Straight back in the spring of '82. The first concert review I ever wrote was the Jam's final Vancouver show, at Kerrisdale Arena, on June 5, 1982.

      Fast forward a few years, and things have definitely changed. Thanks to COVID-19, I didn't review one concert in 2020. The last show I covered was actually Iron Maiden at Rogers Arena in September of 2019.

      Iron Maiden tore it up at one of the last Vancouver arena concerts before COVID hit.
      Jeff Sutherland

      The show I most wanted to see in 2020 was the Drive-By Truckers, who were scheduled to play the Commodore Ballroom on March 17. They are my favourite band, and I'd seen them rip it up at the Commodore before, as well as at Richard's on Richards, the Biltmore Cabaret, the Vogue, the Rickshaw, and the Imperial. COVID killed the March 2020 gig, and the info on Ticketmaster just says: "The event organizer has had to postpone your event. The rescheduled date will be announced soon."

      That message has been there for a while now. "Soon" is relative, of course. But there is no word of an upcoming Vancouver date on the Drive-By Truckers' website. Guess I'll just have to hang in there and keep on spinning Brighter Than Creation's Dark.

      Another 2000 concert I was interested in, that got canned by COVID, was the appearance by former Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre, originally scheduled for May 3 at the Rickshaw. But the good news is that it's been rescheduled for September 19. Surely the virus will be eradicated by then. I need to hear the guitar solo from "Aqualung" real bad.

      One Vancouver hockey-rink show that I was thinking about checking out in 2000 was James Taylor and His All-star Band, which was set for Rogers Arena on April 15, before COVID struck. It wasn't so much that I was psyched to see the mellow "Sweet Baby" James--although I do love some of his tunes--but that I wanted to witness opener Bonnie Raitt in the flesh for the first time. That concert has now been rescheduled for October 2, 2021, and you can find tickets here.

      It would have been nice to have seen Bonnie Raitt on that bill with James Taylor in 2020.

      Vancouver rock fans willing to head out to the wilds of the Fraser Valley to get their concert kicks were disappointed when 2020 shows at the Abbotsford Centre by Alice Cooper (April 18) and ZZ Top & Cheap Trick (May 1) got nixed by the virus. Local Cooper fans appear to be out of luck as far as seeing the shock-rock king in 2021--sorry Nita Strauss fans--but the ZZ Top/Cheap Trick matchup has been rescheduled for April 23, 2021. Whether or not that date gets moved again due to COVID is anybody's guess.

      Local metalheads had to deal with yet another Ozzy Osbourne cancellation in 2020 when his July 9 stop at Rogers Arena, with guest Marilyn Manson, was scrapped. There are no future Vancouver dates on Osbourne's tour itinerary; in fact his next posted gig isn't until January 26, 2022, at Berlin's Mercedes-Benz Arena. On a related pandemic note, Osbourne's wife Sharon was recently diagnosed as testing positive for the virus. Ozzy tested negative. Even COVID doesn't wanna mess with the Prince of Darkness.

      It wasn't just touring superstars who took a concert hit in 2020, of course. One of Vancouver's best-loved roots artists, Steve Dawson, was scheduled to bring his Black Hen Roadshow to the York Theatre on May 29. That performance, copresented by the Cultch and Capilano University, is now scheduled for April 28, 2021, and you can find more info here.

      Some local concert promoters didn't take the battle against COVID-19 lying down (which is good, 'cause we mighta thought they were dead). The fine folks over at the Rickshaw Theatre started livestreaming shows by the likes of local garage-rockers the Pack A.D. (November 28) and Celtic punks the Real McKenzies (December 17).

      The Rickshaw stepped up to the COVID concert crisis with a livestream by the Pack A.D.

      MRG Live West presented an "all-covers" performance by local indie singer-songwriter Dan Mangan via Zoom on November 21.

      Terminal Station threw an online release party for its new album Brotherhood on Facebook Live on October 30, and local rockabilly trio Cousin Harley livestreamed the release party for its new CD, Let's Go, from the BlueShore at CapU stage on November 26.

      The Commodore Ballrooom celebrated its 90th birthday with two livestreams from Colin James on December 3. (Those were the local blues-rocker's 33rd and 34th appearances on the historic venue's stage.) 

      And for the first time in its 11 years history, the annual Keithmas "fundrager" for the Vancouver Food Bank went online on Keith Richard's birthday (December 18).

      It appears as though online, livestreamed shows will be the closest we'll get to live music for a while still. In the meantime, until Dr. Bonnie Henry gives the thumbs-up to in-person rockin' once again, think of all the money you're saving not buying eight-dollar beers!