Concert Review: I Mother Earth @ London Concert Theatre, London, Ontario, Canada
Greetings PHM readers! The word on the Toronto streets is Pete may be without internet for a few hours and therefor unable to stop another Millar-led invasion of mainstream, commercial music. So please indie folk, don’t hate Pete for this, and besides, I Mother Earth is technically an indie band now. All people who like to rock, read on!
Until tonight, the last time I saw I Mother Earth in concert was 10 years and 6 days ago
back when I was designing Facebook before that Zuckerberg kid stole my idea. The band spent a decade from 1993-2003 all over rock radio in Canada and their videos were in heavy rotation on MuchMusic (back when it wasn’t just 90’s TV episodes and new reality shows looking for the next “VJ” to inspire the nation’s 12-14 year-old female music fans). This was all accomplished despite switching lead singers half-way through their run. Original lead singer Edwin (yup, just the one name) left the band in 1997 to bartend and was replaced by Brian Byrne, the group’s current vocalist. IME’s hard rock sound has had some psychedelic-leanings along the way as well as a healthy dose of latin-style percussion. In short, IME: a lot of really good songs. All four of their albums are stellar, with a startling lack of weak tracks (unlike my 3 failed polka albums). In late 2003 the band went on an 8-year hiatus before reuniting and releasing the awesome song We Got The Love in early 2012. They’ve since played a few shows here and there and have returned to London to play the intimate London Concert Theatre.
In what was billed as “A (Very Long) Evening with I Mother Earth”, people who paid the extra $23 for one of the limited number of VIP tickets were treated to a pre-show that included a live acoustic performance by the full band as well as a Q&A with IME. Following that would be the advertised “3 hour rock show”. So many questions needed to be answered: Would bassist Bruce Gordon show up (he’s actually in the Blue Man Group, no jokes, and has to try to find time to hit up the IME gigs)? Would there be any ‘Edwin sucks!’ chants like at past shows? Would the rock show actually be 3 hours? Would I be sober enough to remember it all?
I knew it had to be a good sign for things to come when a duck flew right over the parking lot next to the people standing in line to get into the venue. VIP ticket holders were let into the venue early at 6:30PM to catch the hour-long acoustic set/band Q&A. Going in I had figured they would play the set, then get interviewed, but the interviewing actually took place in between songs. Bassist Bruce Gordon couldn’t make it so ‘understudy’ Chuck D. (of The Salads) grabbed the world’s smallest upright bass and joined guitarist Jag Tanna, singer Brian Byrne, drummer Christian Tanna (on wood block), percussionist Daniel Mansilla (on tall bongo thingys), and keyboardist Chris Collins (on shaker duty) onstage.
The session was hosted by Mark Cameron, a DJ for local rock radio station FM96. Are they still called DJs? Mark did a good job engaging with the band in between the 5 acoustic songs. Fans also got a chance to ask questions like the classic “will you sign my vinyl?”. The band seemed really down to um…earth and more than happy to take part answering and discussing their work. It was fun to watch the band interact with the crowd and each other in such a chill atmosphere.
Prior to the acoustic I Is Us, Jag played a little snippet of the IME song Production while Byrne told the band he didn’t remember the words to that one. Then Brian started what would be a running theme through the night of trying to convince the rest of the band to play Stairway To Heaven. Jag gave him the intro at least, before I Is Us and again before the acoustic version of Pisser. The band finished up with a wicked cover of Jane’s Addiction’s Jane Says and the crowd was encouraged to sing along. I saw video cameras set up so I’m hoping to find all of this on FM96’s website soon.
At about 8:50PM a recorded male voice came over the loudspeakers which I’m pretty sure is the same voice at the start of the IME tune Hell & Malfunction
it definitely wasn’t Satan’s voice. It wasn’t long before the band made their way onstage for the big rock show. Over the next 2 hours and 50 minutes the fans were treated to a mix of big hits, fan favorites, covers, and some lesser known IME tracks as well.
Every time I’ve seen IME with Brian I marvel at how he just embodies energy and passion for his work onstage. Tonight was no different; he was totally into the show from start to finish and was constantly interacting with the crowd (except during long instrumental passages when he would duck offstage for what I can only guess was oxygen or an IV drip to replenish fluids). This is why I always roll my eyes whenever I get the inevitable “Is Edwin gonna be playing with them?”. Keep doing your thing Brian, we love it. After One More Astronaut, he told the audience how he used to talk to the crowd in between songs but now because of aging, spends most of that time catching his breath.
The biggest fan reactions/mosh pit activity came during: One More Astronaut, Like A Girl, Like The Sun, Choke, We Got The Love, and Levitate. During both versions of Summertime In The Void, the crowd sang the entire pre-chorus “when you think there’s salvation…” part all on its own. The audience also had vocal duties on parts of Like The Sun and We Got The Love. Also, during Levitate, the crowd was all too eager to yell some lyrics before Brian could even get to them.
It’s always a good sign for a band when one of the most popular songs of the night is the one you just recorded after an 8 year break. We Got The Love had the crowd amped and was dedicated by Brian to all those people who waited around for 8 years and didn’t forget IME. Other hi-lights of the night include: Jag defining the word virtuoso with his guitar work during The Universe In You and the intro to Earth, Sky, & C (which may have been Black Magic Woman by Santana?), a killer killer rock performance (it is worth 2 killers) of Rain Will Fall with percussion and drum solos, a cover of Suzie Q during Another Sunday, and the sound guy. I’m giving the sound guy mad props for an amazing-sounding show. The drums/percussion were loud and clear, the bass loud and thumping, guitars sharp and vocals booming; an overall incredible, loud show, one of the best I can remember hearing. Great job there guys.
This show should have just been called “Please, Come Get Your Money’s Worth”. The long rock show alone was worth the VIP ticket price, but with the acoustic set/Q&A added as well, what value! It was a long night for sure, but in a really small venue and I Mother Earth absolutely killed it. I’ll go see these guys again whenever they come back to my area. I was really happy to get to hear songs like Meat Dreams, Shortcut To Moncton, All Awake (with crowd yelling the “shut your mouth!” part), Soft Bomb Salad, and the closer Autumn On Drugs played live after such a long time. Let’s all hope we get new music from IME sometime in the future (when Pete’s not looking, I’ll post it!). I had a great time tonight and it was totally worth spending a long evening in London.
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PHM Rating for I Mother Earth: 9.5 out of 10
Setlist for I Mother Earth @ London Concert Theatre, London, Ontario, Canada – April 25, 2013
1. Rain Will Fall
2. I Is Us (preceded by a bit of Production and intro to Stairway To Heaven)
3. Pisser (again, preceded by a bit of the Stairway To Heaven intro)
4. Summertime In The Void
5. Jane Says (Jane’s Addiction cover)
The Big Rock Show
1. 0157: H7
2. Cloud Pump
3. One More Astronaut
4. Like A Girl
5. Summertime In The Void
7. All Awake
8. Sense Of Henry
10. Meat Dreams
11. Like The Sun
12. I Is Us
13. The Universe In You
15. Soft Bomb Salad
16. We Got The Love
17. Another Sunday (with Suzie Q played in the middle)
18. Rain Will Fall
19. Shortcut To Moncton
20. Earth, Sky & C.
22. Autumn On Drugs