On the eve of the release of Running Back Thru Canada, the Guess Who's first live album in thirty years, the Canadian rock legends celebrated with an intimate club show at Toronto's legendary El Mocambo, whose stage has been graced by everyone from the Rolling Stones to Elvis Costello.
To gain admittance to the Dec. 4 concert, the band asked that people bring a non-perishable food item down to the venue that day in exchange for a lottery ticket. Some 700 donations were made to the Daily Bread Food Bank, amounting to over 4,000 pounds of food.
BMG Music Canada also gave each donor a five-dollar-off coupon for the double-live CD to spur album sales.
At 6 p.m., a random draw was held and 150 winners were admitted with a guest, if he or she were present. The rest of the 400-capacity crowd was composed of guests and industry folk, many of whom had been excited enough by this past summer's Canadian reunion tour at amphitheaters, and now to see them up close and personal, actually pushed up to the front with the rest of the fans.
"This oughta be fun," declared singer-keyboardist Burton Cummings, at the start of the two-hour, two-encore show, as the band faced its fans head-on, in the narrow room whose stage strangely faces width-wise.
Along with guitarist Randy Bachman, guitarist Donnie McDougall, drummer Garry Peterson and bassist Bill Wallace (who replaces original bassist Jim Kale), the Guess Who ran back through its Running Back Thru Canada set list, including such classics as "These Eyes," No Time," "No Sugar Tonight," "Hand Me Down World" and, of course, "American Woman," the song Lenny Kravitz popularized for a new generation and helped instigate the demand for the reunion.
The last intimate show the Guess Who performed actually kicked off that Canadian tour back in May. The Winnipeg natives played a last-minute concert at the Cresentwood Community Club in their hometown and raised five-and-a-half tons of food for the food bank, according to manager Lorne Saifer.
"The El Mo show came about because I was thinking of what we could do, as a way of saying thanks to everybody for a great tour for Canada and obviously to bring attention to the record that was coming the next day," he said. "We had a lot of offers to come in and play and I felt, as the band did, that we'd like to do something in return."
While the concert was not Webcast (perhaps at a later date, says Saifer), those unable to get in were given the opportunity to view the broadcast on a giant screen in the El Mo's downstairs room.
The band is currently working out the details for a U.S. tour next year.