Even though current band members drummer Garry Peterson and bassist Jim Kale have been with The Guess Who since the band evolved out of Chad Allen and the Expressions in 1965, there are some that believe the only “true” The Guess Who lineup must also include guitarist Randy Bachman and singer Burton Cummings. Bachman’s departure from the band in 1970 did little to derail The Guess Who’s popularity. As for Cummings no longer being with the group, if replacing a lead singer makes a band less credible, then Journey, Foreigner, Styx, Chicago, Genesis, Foghat and Kansas, just to name a few, have the same problem (and admittedly in some people’s eyes, they do). However a majority of fans are willing to embrace lineup changes. With The Guess Who’s current members including Peterson, Kale, keyboardist/flute player Leonard Shaw, guitarist Laurie MacKenzie and lead singer/guitarist Derek Sharp, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy what this ensemble has to offer.
With the opening song “Bus Rider,” Sharp established that he has the pipes to nail down The Guess Who’s music. Sharp doesn’t try to be Cummings, but at times can sound eerily similar. However what really stood out, not only on “Bus Rider,” but throughout the day, were the harmonies the band possessed. To capture perfect pitch harmonies live, especially outdoors on a windy day, cannot be easy, yet The Guess Who sounded as if they were in the studio.
Keyboardist Shaw provided the “Wolfman Jack,” part of “Clap For the Wolfman,” the crowd performing the required claps and the band again excelling vocally with an a cappella ending. The band then dipped into early The Guess Who hits, “Laughing,” and the B-Side to that single, “Undun,” a song which Peterson described as “his favorite song ever written” by his former Little League friend, Randy Bachman. To the delight of the audience, Shaw lengthened the song’s flute solo which prompted Sharp to remark that the rest of the band “wasn’t getting any younger.” Clearly, this version of The Guess Who has a good time playing together and it shows.
Reaching way back into their musical vault, the band performed their 1965 initial hit “Shakin’ All Over,” which turned into a showcase for each band member, Shaw, Sharp and MacKenzie all getting solo time and the song ending in one lengthy jam by the whole group. It brought the laid back crowd to its feet. “Share The Land,” was perhaps the most closely performed song to its album counterpart and had it not been daytime, most likely an abundance of Bic’s would have been lit and held aloft during the chorus.
For the regular set’s final song, Peterson’s initial drum solo and MacKenzie’s and Sharp’s guitar work may have teased many, but Kale’s bass line was unmistakable as they led into the crowd favorite “American Woman.” Now the place was up and dancing and that the fans would demand an encore was a given.
As is customary for most performances of The Guess Who, the band stayed around after their performance and signed autographs, a nice touch for those wishing to speak with both the old guard and the new. Sometimes, you just have to accept change. When witnessing this version of The Guess Who, such an acceptance will guarantee a good time.
Set list: Bus Rider | Clap For The Wolfman | Laughing | Undun | No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature | Shakin’ All Over | Hand Me Down World | Share The Land | American Woman | Encore: These Eyes | No Time
Photo Credit: Becky Hansen