“Good. Gone. Dead.”
That was the tag line for Rheostatics’ farewell show, which the played to a sold out house of fans gathered from across the continent. Because of the careful wording of the press release, indicating that this show would be the last outing of the current line-up, the utter feeling of finality was inescapable. Onstage, as they trotted out the drummers of yore (Dave Clark and Don Kerr), told morbid jokes about chopping off hands, and discussed the possibility of soloing through the casino circuit, it really felt like the end of something.
The show was a testament to the accomplishments made during band’s quarter-century career: beautiful guitar sounds carryied the listener from coast to coast, finally submerging into an ocean of nostalgia. Rheostatics spent half of their three-and-a-half hour set on songs from Melville and Whale Music, their classic second and third albums, giving one the sense that it was just as much a reminiscence for the band, as for their fans.
Poor Martin Tielli was ill, his voice unable to hit the signature falsetto notes of so many of his songs. But every time the energy of the show ebbed, one of the other Rheostatics jumped in to steer the ship back on course. Whether it was an adlib from Dave Bidini, or Tim Vesley reaching a microphone over so Kerr could chime in on a lyric, the years on stage together wore well on the band that night; the boys supported each other creatively and, on this night in particular, emotionally. Tielli seemed to have the toughest time, commenting that he kept adjusting his cap to keep his ‘mind off of things.’
But it was not all as tragic as it seemed. Rheostatics took the opportunity to demonstrate their longevity that night – they engaged the fans, and more particularly in between songs, joked they probably knew the names of most audience members. Highlights also included a theatrical reenactment of a Bidini experience at a Joe Jackson show, goalie pads played as percussion, and an audience sing-a-long finale.
As they walked off stage for the final time, Tielli called out to the audience, ‘See ya soon!” Drummer Michael Phililp-Wojewoda then looked at him questioningly. Maybe it was an uncanny prediction, maybe just a joke, or maybe denial that a great Canadian band is dead.