The Northern Pikes’ reunion sabotaged by awful sound at the Commodore

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, FEB. 3, 2000

I’ve always been a sucker for rock ’n’ roll reunions. If a band I used to like gets back together—especially with all its former members intact—I say “Right on!” When I heard the Northern Pikes, one of my fave Canuck-pop groups from the ’80s, were touring again, it felt as if a long-lost buddy had called from out of the blue.

But not everyone in my journalistic circle seemed so enthused by the news.

“I used to like them when I was 18,” said one 30ish coworker with a snicker, as if that meant she couldn’t like them anymore. Other cynics pointed to the band’s lack of a new album, suggesting that, without current music to validate its existence, the group was just riding the nostalgia wave in search of a fast buck.

But I didn’t expect the Pikes to take that route. For one thing, it’s not as if there’s a huge public demand to see them again. Tickets for last Friday’s (January 28) show were only $12—plus whatever sundry charges and fees TicketMaster felt like imposing—so the band wasn’t making a killing. Many of those in attendance were no doubt there out of idle curiosity; others may have been drawn by morbid fascination—the potential of seeing four bloated has-beens go down in flames. I’m happy to report that, once warmed up, the Northern Pikes proved fully capable of rekindling the robust melodic-pop vibe of their late-80s heyday.

Unfortunately, the worst sound I’ve ever heard in the Commodore—a tinny, high-end cacophony of shrill guitars—totally sabotaged their good intentions.

The band chose its material well, kicking off the show with the exhilarating “Dream Away”. More fervent power pop followed in the form of “Wait for Me”, “You Sold the Farm”, and “Girl With a Problem”, most of it emphasizing the triple-threat vocal harmonies of bassist Jay Semko and guitarists Bryan Potvin and Merl Bryk. After slipping a bit with the theme song of the Canadian TV series Due South, the concert peaked with “Chain of Flowers”, a dynamic track that starts off mellow and builds into a stormy gem à la Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”.

It was nearly 1 a.m. when Potvin’s cascading lead licks signalled the intro to “Things I Do for Money”, but by then it was time to dash off and catch the last train to New West. As good as it was to see the Pikes back in action, any notions of staying till the end and paying the hefty cab fare home had long been scuttled by the severe ineptitude of the band’s soundman, who made like he was auditioning for a job at GM Place.

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