Geoff Tate with opener Russ Dwarf live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Concert Review


Date: April 14, 2017
Venue: Brass Monkey
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Reviewer: Olivier
Photos: Olivier

With Easter weekend around the corner, I found out that I would be heading to Ottawa for the weekend. That would put a damper into my planned concerts for that long weekend — Last Bullet at Spot 1 in Brampton, Ontario on April 14th and Geoff Tate at The Rockpile in Toronto, Ontario on April 15th. However, given that many acts that play at The Rockpile also tend to play at the Brass Monkey in Ottawa, I took a quick peek to say if I might get lucky and get to see Tate play in Ottawa. As it would turn out, Tate was playing at the Brass Monkey the night before his show at The Rockpile so the stage was set for me to have a rockin’ Easter weekend despite being in Ottawa.

For the occasion, I was able to recruit my brother to accompany me to see Tate even though my brother admittedly only knew a handful of songs from Queensrÿche and the Killer Dwarfs. Now I had heard a lot about the Brass Monkey in the last few years from various friends so I was looking forward to checking out the venue. My brother and I arrived around 8:40 pm and there was a little line of people outside waiting to get into the venue, which was located in the basement level. We were told that there was another line in the basement area so we had to wait for that line to clear before heading down. Eventually, we got the go ahead to get to the basement level and I started understanding why we were asked to wait upstairs for the line of people in the basement to be taken care of. As soon as you walked down the stairs to the basement area, the will call and coat check area were upon you with any line-up having to either extend into the stairs or in the heart of the bar area. The stage was to the right with a few high tables and chairs lined up in front, the bar right behind and ample room with more tables and chairs on either side of the stage. Perhaps the oddest part of the set up to me was that in the back of the venue was a big open space with tons of pool tables which would have been ideal to place the stage.

With the few high tables in front of the stage already occupied and some vacant but with a “reserved” sign, there did not seem to be many places to stand around to get a good close up view of the stage without blocking the people that were seated. It seemed to take forever for the first opening act to hit the stage. This is just my theory but with the great early turnout of people, the Brass Monkey venue elected to have people drink a little more to increase the revenues a bit more before the first band hit the stage.

Frets With Benefits:

At around 9:36 pm to be exact, the six members of the first opening band Frets With Benefits got on stage. I had previously seen that Frets With Benefits was a newly formed group consisting of local musicians from other local bands including namely Mothership and Adrynaline. I was excited to see them since I had previously seen Adrynaline play live the last time I was in Ottawa to catch Shock in concert. Adrynaline played a range of very good cover songs back in 2013 and as it turns out, Fret With Benefits would do the same on this night.

Although I knew all of the songs that Fret With Benefits played, naming them or identifying the group or artist that originally played some of those songs turned out to be a challenge for me! Mothership singer Rick Fullerton handled the lead vocals on the first two songs and I was impressed with his singing. My brother being a bass player raved about Adrynaline bassist Cree Michaud‘s playing. I didn’t really notice anything special about Michaud‘s bass playing but my brother was definitely impressed. Fullerton then advised that he was handing the vocals to “Kim” who is the lead singer for Adrynaline known as “JustKim Rose.” Wow! What can you say? That woman has a powerful voice! JustKim Rose sang the lead vocals on “Diamonds And Rust” (Judas Priest — I know it’s not a Judas Priest original song but as far as I am concerned, it’s a Priest song), “Close My Eyes Forever” (Lita Ford with Ozzy Osbourne) and “Children Of The Damned” (Iron Maiden). Kim‘s singing simply got a great response from the crowd. Frets With Benefits closed off their acoustic performance with a spirited rendition of Extreme‘s “Hold Hearted” which gave me the goose bumps.

Frets With Benefits playing cover of Iron Maiden‘s “Children Of The Damned” in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on April 14, 2017:

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Russ Dwarf:

Before long, it was time for Russ Dwarf to hit the stage. I had previously seen the Killer Dwarfs‘ frontman play an acoustic solo show in May 2015 and I had been impressed with his performance. Russ Dwarf was accompanied this time by Killer Dwarfs guitarist Gerry Finn, band manager Rob Zakojc and someone else on stand up type drums. I’m a big Dwarfs fan and have seen them live five times in the last five years. However, I thought that Russ Dwarf and company’s performance this time around in Ottawa was kind of flat. The normal humour exhibited by the diminutive frontman with the unique voice was not there. There appeared to be some discussion between Russ Dwarf, Finn and Zakojc in between songs without microphones. I think I would have felt more engaged if the threesome would have let the crowd know what they’re talking about even if it was just to state that a song or two were being cut from the setlist. Finn did talk in the microphone at some points during the evening but I couldn’t hear what he had to say.

Russ Dwarf and company started their set with “Stand Tall (Stick To Your Guns”) which was a good opener and one of the songs from the Killer Dwarfs that my brother recognized. Next up was a song that I didn’t recognize called “Everything.” Perhaps I was just in the mood to hear songs that I already knew or recognized by that time but the trio of songs that I did not recognize from Russ Dwarf (I think “Everytime”, “Four Seasons” and “Smoothline”) were kind of on the dull side for me this time around. “Keep The Spirit Alive” was surprisingly played as the fourth song, which turned out to be a good idea to get the crowd going midway through the set. I found it a bit funny that my brother who had previously cited “Dirty Weapons” as one of the songs that he knew from the Killer Dwarfs could not recognize it when played acoustically by Russ Dwarf and company. The best song which got the loudest crowd reaction was the ballad “Doesn’t Matter” which had a lot of people singing along.

Overall, it was a disappointing set from Russ Dwarf. I would have liked Russ Dwarf and company to go in with the attitude that they are the headliners and play that way but it did not feel like that during their performance. I’ve seen Russ Dwarf and the Killer Dwarfs absolutely electrify the crowd before such as at the M3 Rock Festival in 2015 but this time around, the magic just wasn’t there.

Russ Dwarf’s setlist:
01. Stand Tall
02. Everything
03. Driftin’ Back
04. Keep The Spirit Alive
05. Four Seasons
06. Smoothline
07. Dirty Weapons
08. Doesn’t Matter

p.s.: I usually don’t add things to a review once I have posted it but I was advised after posting my concert review that Russ Dwarf was actually performing with a serious back injury, which likely explains why his performance was not up to the usual high standards that I hold him to.

Geoff Tate:

As much as Russ Dwarf‘s performance was unusually flat to me on this night, Geoff Tate turned out to be the opposite. I had seen Tate play live last year in Toronto when he fronted Operation: Mindcrime and I had actually vowed to myself not to go see him play live again because I was so disappointed with his setlist. The lure of seeing the former Queensrÿche lead vocalist singing some classics from his time in that band was just too strong for me to deny. Funny enough, it was the inclusion of Russ Dwarf as an opening act that really sold me to go see Tate play live once again. This time around, Tate was accompanied by Operation: Mindcrime guitarist Scott Moughton as well as three very young looking performers on rhythm guitar, drums (or more like tapping on a box) and violin — yes, a violin! I was a little surprised to see guitarist Kelly Gray floating around in the audience and thought for sure that he would be on stage performing too. As it turned out, Gray was handling the sound for the band it seemed and doing a great job of it as the sound was fantastic.

Recruiting some young blood to play with him turned out to be a great move for Tate as his bandmates’ enthusiasm while playing was absolutely infectious. Tate also seemed very happy to be there and really into the songs that were being played. Kicking things off with two classic era Queensrÿche songs — “Walk In The Shadows” and “Another Rainy Night (Without You)” — gave Tate and his band a strong start. Hearing “Another Rainy Night (Without You)” live was definitely a real treat.

From then on, it was a captivating night of story telling from Tate before just about each song. I won’t mention all the stories that Tate spoke about on this night as better to experience them live from him than from me in writing. I will say that the various songs played by Tate on this night, some of which I didn’t know or forgot about with the passage of time, took on extra significance once Tate explained what they meant to him or how they came to be. One story in particular touched me which I will share with you. Tate‘s father had participated in I believe the Korean war back in 1955 but had never shared anything with Tate about that time and his experiences despite the younger Tate asking about it from time to time. One night when an older Tate and his father were having a drink together, his father all of a sudden opened up about his time in the war. That inspired Tate to write the conceptual album American Soldier that was released in 2009.

My favourite tracks played by Tate were “Another Rainy Night (Without You),” “Blood,” “Eyes Of A Stranger” and surprisingly the surprise encore of “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” which had Tate‘s violinist really going at it. I must say that the encores were a little weird. Once “Eyes Of A Stranger” was played, Tate and his bandmates all left the stage and went up the stairs to get out from the basement level where the Brass Monkey is located. Having seen the little that is up there, it was obvious that Tate and the band would have to come back down which they did to play their two encores. Next time, perhaps they should just stay on stage rather than do this unnecessary interlude. The encores itself were a bit puzzling and closing the night with the likely little known “Around The World” from the mostly disastrous Dedicated To Chaos album seemed a bit anti-climatic.

I know one Sleaze Roxx reader in particular likes to know from which albums that the various songs emanate from so Daven, this one is for you! The various Queensrÿche albums and Tate‘s 35 year music history were well represented with one from 1983’s Queensrÿche EP (“The Lady Wore Black”), one from 1984’s The Warning (“Take Hold Of The Flame”), one from 1986’s Rage For Order (“Walk In The Shadows”), two from Operation: Mindcrime (“I Don’t Believe In Love” and “Eyes Of A Stranger”), three from 1990’s Empire (“Another Rainy Night (Without You)”, “Jet City Woman” and “Silent Lucidity”), two from 1994’s Promised Land (“Out Of Mind” and “Bridge”), one from 1997’s Hear In The Now Frontier (“Some People Fly”), one from 2003’s Tribe (“Blood”), one from 2009’s American Soldier (“Hundred Mile Stare”) and one from 2011’s Dedicated To Chaos (“Around The World”). There were also two Queensrÿche songs that appeared as bonus tracks on re-issues of two albums: 1997’s Hear In The Now Frontier which was re-issued in 2003 (“Chasing Blue Sky”) and 1999’s Q2K which was re-issued in 2006 (“Until There Was You”). Finally, there was one Operation: Mindcrime song called “The Fight” and one cover of I believe Dropkick Murphy‘s “I’m Shipping Up To Boston.”

Overall, my brother and I really enjoyed Tate‘s set even if I only got home at around 2:00 am after all was said and done.

Geoff Tate’s setlist:
01. Walk In The Shadows
02. Another Rainy Night (Without You)
03. Some People Fly
04. Jet City Woman
05. Chasing Blue Sky
06. Bridge
07. Until There Was You
08. Out Of Mind
09. Silent Lucidity
10. The Fight
11. Blood
12. Take Hold Of The Flame
13. The Lady Wore Black
14. Hundred Miles Stare
15. Don’t Believe In Love
16. Eyes Of A Stranger
17. I’m Shipping Up To Boston (Dropkick Murphy cover)
18. Around The World

Geoff Tate playing “Another Rainy Night (Without You)” live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on April 14, 2017:

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