Jim Cuddy @ Drake Underground

. : : September 25th, 2011 : : .

I don’t remember how I found out that Jim Cuddy was going to be doing a public interview with NOW Magazine at the Drake Underground, but I did know. Honestly, I wasn’t really all that interested. $20 to listen to a man talk for what? Half an hour? Forty-five minutes, tops? I’m not sure if I also knew he was going to do a short acoustic set — if I did, I’d completely forgotten about it.

After hearing both his set on CBC and more details about the show a few days prior, I consulted my calendar. I was completely free all day long, so I figured I’d play it by ear. But as time passed, and I was working on splitting up the CBC recording to post on the blog, I thought to myself that I would really like to hear some of these songs live and Jim is a fascinating and important musical figure in Canadian culture — he might just have a few interesting things to say.

I headed out to The Drake pretty early, but when I got to the doors (just under 45-minutes early), I was informed that there were only 19 unclaimed tickets — the show was all but sold out. PHEW. I grabbed one of the complimentary NOW magazines, and time flew by as I flipped through it. I was surprised when I finally entered the Drake to see that it was outfitted with rows of chairs. Every time I’d ever been prior, it’s been a standard concert venue, with some nice leather couches along either side of the wall. I didn’t really expect any different, but was again glad that I was early. I claimed a seat as close to the speakers as I could get, set up my gear, and listened to a sneak peek of Cuddy’s new album, Skyscraper Soul, as it was being piped through the PA system.

I must admit, I was a bit surprised that more people weren’t interested in listening to the album, as it wasn’t set to his record stores for another two days (today, at time of posting!), and I assume most people in the room hadn’t listened to the stream available on his website. Instead, the crowd — mostly female, and mostly late-thirties to late-fifties — drank wine and gossiped loudly, as if there was some sort of competition going on. So, when NOW publisher Michael Hollett took the stage to introduce Jim and begin the interview, I was an extra bit glad they would quiet down … in theory.

Turns out, Jim Cuddy is the middle-aged Justin Beiber. The girls still gabbed, gossiped and verbally swooned, but for the most part, at a much more tolerable volume. The one exception is one lady, directly behind me, who thought SHE was having the one-on-one conversation with Jim, and throughout the night, replied consistently with phrases like, “Mmmmhmmm,” “yeah,” “oh, wow!” and “really?!” at a normal conversational level. I’m not sure she was even conscious of it, but in a room as small as the Drake, everyone around her sure was.

To NOW’s credit, the interview went on MUCH longer than I expected it to (the whole evening running around 80-minutes), and allowed a good amount of that time to be taken up by audience questions. To the audience’s credit, most of their questions were actually interesting, provocative questions — not a single “Boxers or briefs?” or “I play music too, listen to my demo tape?!” Jim’s answers, on the other hand, erred on the side of conservative. Or maybe he really just is that nice?

The only time he got fired up and controversial is when politics came up — both local and foreign. Jim definitely did not mince words when discussing current Toronto mayor Rob Ford, and former US President George W. Bush in particular. Otherwise, his answers were fairly safe, and usually predictable. To his credit, he also happily played along with each inquiry, even when questions veered more frequently towards Blue Rodeo than his solo band and record the event was supposed to be promoting.

I don’t think I was the only one in the room hoping for a longer set of music than we got: one song in the middle, and another to cap off the evening. I guess when they advertised, “he will play a couple of songs from his new album,” they were being very literal. I expected at least a third song (my money was on the title track), but the performance was good and the interview interesting enough to feel like my $20 was justified.

The recording is slightly problematic, however, in that the levels between interview and performance jump considerably. I tried to adjust them on the fly, but had a hard time compensating. You’ll notice the interview is on the quiet side, and the songs on the loud side — too loud, even, as the levels clip a little bit. Nothing unlistenable, and definitely worth a quick listen for Jim Cuddy fans. Interviews were split into roughly 15-minute tracks to make them more digestible. Splits have no relation to topic content. Enjoy the recording!

01. [introduction 1]
02. [introduction 2]
03. [interview pt.1] *
04. [interview pt.2]
05. Everyone Watched The Wedding
06. [interview pt.3]
07. [interview pt.4]
08. [interview pt.5]
09. Watch Yourself Go Down

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Watch Yourself Go Down (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Thanks to Jim Cuddy, Michael Hollett and NOW Magazine, and the Drake Hotel.

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