JOHNNY REID AT PROSPERA PLACE IN KELOWNA, BC APRIL 13, 2012
Every now and then you come across someone who not only entertains, they also give everything they've got to whoever is around them. The other night that person was Johnny Reid. I could write a review about his music, but his fans know his music is great, live and recorded. Instead I want to tell you what I saw when I watched Johnny Reid, the man.
My first inkling of what Johnny Reid was all about, aside from his music, came from my friend Louise, who got to see him at the Meet and Greet. As I was sitting in my seat, I received a text message that said. "He is so nice!"
I thought, of course he is, he's at a meet and greet and he's making his fans happy, after all they did pay to see him. Then he came on stage and the crowd went nuts.
This was no ordinary crowd. I estimate the age range was age 6 to 90. Smiling faces were everywhere as he launched into Let's Have a Party and quickly followed it with Old Flame. The entire time he was singing, he was reaching down to shake the hands of the fans who had made their way up to the barrier.
In the brief moment he held their hand, he sang directly to them, and no one else. He talked to the crowd, told them stories and made everyone feel like they were sitting in someone's living room listening to tales of days gone by. When the band launched into Dancin' Shoes, Reid left the stage and headed straight into the audience.
After a few more handshakes, photos and smiles, still singing, he found who he was looking for, an older fan with a twinkle in her eye and a spring in her step. He grabbed her and danced with her while he sang to the crowd that respectfully gave him space as the couple twirled and danced under a single spotlight at the back of the auditorium. Then he gently let her go, still singing, and headed up to the opposite side of the arena where he sat down and sang to another fan.
I was thinking to myself, this is one brave guy to be out in the crowd like this; however, it had nothing to do with bravery. It had everything to do with mutual respect. Then he was back on stage, this time with a young boy in tow.
The boy was young, probably six or seven years old. Reid took him by the hand, placed him next to a very leggy singer, and finished up his song. The boy spent the next few minutes copying dance moves and grinning from ear to ear as the crowd sang along and grinned right back at him.
Reid pulled out songs from his new album and mixed them masterfully with his older, more well known tunes. His entire band, including a brass section, two back up singers, a drummer, a percussionist, two guitar players and a bass player performed perfectly together as Reid kept the crowd going. Then he disappeared from the main stage as the band continued to entertain.
Moments later he re-appeared in the centre of the arena on a smaller stage. He told a story of a man who he'd met earlier. He was celebrating his 83rd birthday and had asked Reid to sing Thank You. It wasn't on the set list, but that didn't matter, Reid changed the set list and sang the song anyway, as a birthday gift.
The evening flew by and Reid pulled out his hit Let's Go Higher and had everyone in the arena raising up the their arms every time he sang let's go higher.
He finished the night off with Darlin' but the crowd wanted more. He left, kept them wondering for a bit and then returned and put up the lyrics to his encore song, Till We Meet Again.
His band was tight, the pyrotechnics and lights were perfectly timed, and the songs were much loved. But most of all, what Johnny Reid and his band gave the audience was a good feeling. The kind of feeling you get when you think, if this is who we've chosen to entertain us, if this is who we have chosen to make us feel good, maybe the world isn't such a bad place after all.
And you know what... he really is a nice guy.
Special thanks to Kirstin Wakal for the great concert photos. Photo of Johnny Reid and Louise Kneller contributed by Louise Kneller.