The Fab Four have been undergoing a mini-revival here in London. September saw the first downtown Beatles Festival, and it was a big hit. If you missed it — shame on you — Aeolian Hall Performing Arts Centre is offering a second chance at two of the acts that rocked the festival.
Beatlemania Revisited will be in on Saturday, November 19, with its “note-for-note” renditions of Beatles classics and vintage costumes and instruments. Then on December 10, The McCartney Years, another top tribute band, with front man (and local musician) Yuri Pool, plays “Lennon and McCartney,” a show featuring the later solo hits.
Moptoppery not your thing? The Aeolian has a terrific line-up of other music too, including some big names in Canadian jazz, an intriguing world music event, and perennial favourites Great Lake Swimmers.
On Friday, November 18, Toronto-based Jazz flautist and saxophonist Jane Bunnet, famous for her collaborations with Afro-Cuban jazz veterans, is here with Maqueque, an all-woman ensemble of young Cuban stars. Bunnet, a multiple Juno winner, Grammy nominee and Officer of the Order of Canada, has released over a dozen albums since the 1980s, including this year’s Oddara with Maqueque.
Then on Sunday, November 27, it’s a completely different style of jazz, as Juno nominee Alex Pangman and Her Alleycats take the stage for a Christmas Extravaganza. Pangman’s sweet spot is classic, danceable jazz of the 1920s through 1950s — authentic but with a swagger and drive that make it sound nothing like your great-grandma’s old 78 rpm records. And that voice! Sassy.
Speaking of jazz, local fans should know there is great free and almost-free jazz to be had in London. The long-running Jazz for the People series (free) is back at the Wolf Performance Hall (Central Library downtown). Two concerts of note coming up: local multi-instrumentalist and arranger Peter Hysen (bass, trombone, tuba) brings his Septet on Wednesday, November 23. On Wednesday, December 14, it’s Sandy MacKay’s Holiday Special, featuring the drummer, bandleader and JFTP mainstay. (Come early for the best seats.)
The London Jazz Society also runs a series of bargain-priced Sunday afternoon concerts at the Mocha Shrine Centre on Colborne St. London sax man Chris Murphy is there with his band on November 6, and then it’s the Mark Henning Jazz Quartet on December 4, featuring guitarist/vocalist Henning and pianist Don Di Carlo.
Back to the Aeolian. Flamenco, the soulful music of southern Spain’s Roma people, is a genre not well understood or appreciated on this side of the Atlantic. The Jorge Miguel Flamenco Ensemble, coming to the Hall Saturday, November 12, could change that. Miguel, a Spanish-Canadian trained in Spain, put his ensemble together for just that purpose. The show includes his virtuoso guitar, as well as dance and song, the three pillars of the flamenco form. Expect an intense, exciting performance.
Great Lake Swimmers bring their decidedly more laid-back folk-rock sounds to Aeolian Hall on Friday, December 2. Tony Dekker and his Toronto-based band are currently touring their fifth studio album, Forest of Arms, released earlier this year. It’s a typically melodic, mostly acoustic set. You’ll leave humming.
Legendary singer-songwriter Fred Eaglesmith, probably the hardest-working musician in the country — his Traveling Steam Show tours constantly — plays two dates in the area this fall. On November 10 he’s at the London Music Club. If you miss him there, he’s at Revival Hall (the old Church Restaurant) in Stratford on November 18.
London Music Hall (note: Hall, not Club) has some great acts coming this fall. Steve Earle & the Dukes, grizzled veterans of the roots music scene, are in on Thursday November 17. Anyone who watched the great but under-appreciated HBO series Treme, about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the Big Easy, will remember Earle’s regular turn as street musician Harley Watt.
Basia Bulat, whose fourth album Good Advice came out earlier this year and was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize, brings her melodic alt-pop sounds to LMH on Friday November 25. In a similar vein, the good young folk-pop outfit Half Moon Run is in on Monday, December 5. On Friday, December 9, it’s hard-rockers the Trews, from Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The Trews are also playing Sarnia’s Station Music Hall on December 2.
Simple Plan, the Quebec-based punk-pop outfit, is at the Bud on Thursday, November 17. They’re touring their latest album, Taking One for the Team. (It features a very cool cover shot.)
Best for last? The legendary, the venerable Gordon Lightfoot is at the Capitol Theatre in Chatham on Wednesday, November 16. How come we didn’t get him in London? Never mind, Chatham is only an hour or so down the 401: worth the drive. If you can still get tickets.
Gerry Blackwell is a London-based freelance writer.