Published Feb 03, 2019Chris "Old Man" Luedecke is no stranger to Victoria. He first came here some 20 years ago, having hitchhiked all the way down from Dawson City, YK, with the newfound love of his life on his arm, and ended up working as a stock boy in the linen department at the Hudson's Bay in Vancouver. He's been writing songs about it ever since, and he says he's still trying to get it right, but his set on Saturday night showed no weariness from the struggle.
Of course, since those early post-university days, Luedecke has achieved as much as any Canadian banjo player could hope. He's been nominated for four Juno Awards, winning two, and once had an album land on the Polaris Music Prize long list, while performing alongside such Canadian music royalty such as Feist, Bahamas, Joel Plaskett and Buck 65.
Turning the Capital Ballroom into an intimate cabaret setting, with rows of chairs lined across its dance floor, Luedecke treated Victoria to an entire evening with just himself, and complimentary vocal harmonies from Joel E. Hunt, who also played mandolin and occasionally fiddle. Between two sets, split by an intermission, the Old Man had plenty of time to deliver his Nova Scotian storytelling wit. When the sound guy, Mike, had to swap out a monitor center-stage between songs, it prompted Luedecke to say that this was the best show ever. What service!
Elsewhere, he relayed stories about or the meaning behind certain songs. Before playing the title song from his 2012 album Tender Is the Night, he remembered the time he brought his daughter on tour. She would always request that song, but then fall asleep during its performance. With that in mind, he gave permission to the crowd to nod off, if they felt like it, because he was used to seeing that anyway.
In explaining "Low on the Hog" from his 2015 album Domestic Eccentric, he extolled his fantastic ability to complain, likening it to building an elaborate byzantine structure, a "palazzo of pain" with turrets, aqueducts, columns and fountains, which his wife quickly brought down with the titular turn of phrase. As this brought them to intermission, he promised to play the good stuff in the second half of their set.
Sticking to his guns, the second half picked up where the first left off, as Luedecke spun a lengthy yarn about how "The Girl in the Pearl Earring" came from an incident where he spied his wife hoola-hooping at sunset, surprised to discover that she owned a hoola-hoop. He then felt a sensation that watching her out a small window was like the old creeps peeking at a young woman in a Renaissance painting he saw based on the story of Susannah and the Elders. Later on, he gave context to his "A&W Song," a late-night burger run denied by the restaurant staff since he was only a pedestrian at the time, after which he saw a drunkard pull up to the window in the back of a taxi, beating the system.
Elsewhere, he gave a taste of his upcoming album, Easy Money, recently recorded in Montreal. He also gave the crowd a sample of the live album he recently released, One Night Only! Live at the Chester Playhouse. Since he performed that live album solo, he sent Hunt away to perform his cover of Leonard Cohen's classic "Closing Time" alone, and to great effect.
For his efforts, the crowd remained attentive, engaged, and respectful throughout the evening, as Luedecke, complemented by Hunt, delivered persistently sweet, uplifting melodies on the banjo and guitar, even in the more political and/or poignant numbers. With his conversational banter riding that line between folksy wisdom and self-deprecating humor as masterfully as Joey Ryan from the Milk Carton Kids, his set came off like a stripped-down, family-friendly version of the Dead South.