September 1 2011 – Back on October 6 2007, I attended Michael Sadlers' supposed farewell show at Jeff Healey's Roadhouse in the band's hometown of Toronto. (Saga actually formed in Oakville which is just outside Toronto but the two are all part of a megacity). The show was incredible but surprisingly had no more than 50 people in the audience. This is a band that has sold 8 million albums! Sadler was retiring the band for personal reasons after being its lead singer for 30 years. I managed to get the setlist and autographs from Steve Negus (Saga's original drummer who was filling in that night) and Bassist/Keyboardist Jim Crichton.
When I discovered that Sadler had returned to Saga early in 2011, I was expecting that his return performance to the Toronto stage after an almost four year absence would be phenomenal. Note, this would my second time seeing Saga perform in less than one month (check out my Saga review at the Ancaster's Festival of Friends).
Wise, Young & King
But before I describe my Saga experience, allow me to first give a worthy mention to the opening band. Wise, Young & King from Ottawa were playing one of their first gigs in Toronto – and to their largest audience to date confirmed by their lead singer. The band's website describes their style as "ferocious riff driven rock n' roll debauchery with a retro vibe and infectious sound." Totally spot on. These guys had a tough challenge ahead of them when they got on stage – to enchant an audience that was here strictly for Saga. Not only did they step up to the challenge, they blew the crowd away. By the end of their set I declared myself a fan. Vocalist Alan Charlton's voice reminded me of Ian Astbury, in fact I felt like they had an evolved sound of The Cult during their mighty heavy guitar years. It is great to see good rock still alive and well and passing down through the generations. I predict a great future for this band and will be sure to see them when they are back in Toronto. Note: Check the video at the bottom of this review to see them performing live.
At around 10:30 pm the curtains opened and Michael Sadler and Jim Gilmour walked to the front of the stage to give an interview with the night's host, local radio station Q107.
In the short interview, it was revealed that The Chapters were in fact written to simply sell more albums. They also touched upon the origin of the band's name, Michael's departure and return, and a story about Jim's mom. The interview was refreshing in that it portrayed a personal side of the band, it was humorous and honest. The curtains closed to conclude that appreciated fan interaction activity.
The show started at 10:45 to thundrous joy from the crowd of 1000 or so. Most of the audience crowded towards the front of the stage to get a glimpse of the main event. Michael Sadler and Saga were back home!
The set started with an energetic "How Long?" which is the first song on the first Saga album (entitled "Saga") released in 1978. They played a very tight set which consisted of all the usual hits (Humble Stance, You're Not Alone, Scratching The Surface, The Flyer, Don't Be Late). Sadler was truly engaged with the audience, giving a stellar performance and throwing in some humour along the way. One of my favorite albums of all time and also one of the first five I ever owned was well represented. Five songs from World's Apart (1981) were performed: On The Loose, Wind Him Up, Framed, Time's Up, and Conversations. I quite often find myself listening to this album in it's entirety 30 years after its release so I was very pleased to hear these gems live.
Ian Crichton of Saga
Saga is a band with a fanatical cult following, several of which were at this show. People were donning Saga shirts and screaming out song titles within two or three notes. Sadler played up to the audience's energy, encouraging them to sing into his mike and guess the next tune. Sadler's performance clearly defines him as one of the most charismatic and energetic lead singers of all time. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it still baffles me why Saga is not selling out larger venues in Toronto. Their music is solid and nothing beats listening to their tunes on a warm summer night on the amphitheater circuit.
Sadler thanking fans on Twitter the day after the gig. Classy move!
Tonight's concert was part of Q107′s Classic Rock Thursday series which featured Canadian bands such as The Northern Pikes, Honeymoon Suite, Goddo and Helix. Check the Contest page for a chance to win free tickets to Helix!
VERDICT: 10/10 – Saga really brought the house down and Sadler is right up there with Freddie Mercury for me in terms of stage presence. Honorable mention to Wise, Young & King for an energetic performance.
UPDATE 10/24 – We have just been notified that the band is selling a very cool collectible. There will be a limited edition (of 100) tour book which is autographed by the whole band, and a tour shirt. This is a must have for any hard core Saga fan. Highly recommended. Info is found at www.sagaontour.ca (main page) Click here to see a picture of it - http://pic.twitter.com/qRYHLlBo