I Mother Earth: Canada – live review

I Mother Earth
The Oak, Winnipeg, Canada
1 November 2012

Live review

Our Canadian correspondent Chris Hearn catches up with another band from his youth as I Mother Earth tour after an eight year hiatus.

This was the first time I had been to the Oak in Winnipeg. I suspect this place just started putting on concerts because I don’t even remember ever hearing about it before. Anyway, I’m going to be honest and say I didn’t like the bar too much. But this isn’t a venue review is it? No. It’s a concert review.

The venue is, however, an important part of the experience. A good band however can transform even a venue you hate into a great space you are happy to be in. I Mother Earth did just that. I have to say that for being a venue I didn’t like, they did have an awesome sound system that worked well with I Mother Earth’s bass heavy sound, so I’ll give that to them at least.

I have no clue how familiar the UK is with I Mother Earth. If you don’t know them they are a Canadian “alt-rock” band from the ’90s.

I have never been able to figure out how to define them. They have an interesting sound, mixing latin-flavoured beats with heavy blues guitar and a crisp, heavy bass sound. Songs like “Levitate” are almost hardcore or metal.

Jagori Tanna is the lead guitarist and he’s pretty amazing to watch. More than anything he’s a deadly blues guitarist, but he has so many interesting techniques, like playing his guitar as a slap bass, creating a cool heavy grooved sound. He also has a whole rack of effects pedals which he uses to the full extent.

Apparently, Tanna is a stage name, taken from Santana, which is something I did not know. But it makes sense because when he plays, he often creates a Carlos Santana sound. I think they may have been influenced by Santana, what do you think? And, lo and behold, after saying that, I found a YouTube video of an old Much Music Spolight show on the band from the ’90s and they talk all about Santana, the role of drums in the band and get to show off some Platinum hardware. Plus, they mention my hometown of Thunder Bay! EEEEE! Oh, and they talk about previous singer Edwin leaving the band. Where is Edwin now? Good question.

After an eight year hiatus, I Mother Earth came back together and began playing shows in 2012; yay for me and their legion of fans. It had been a long, long time since I had seen them last, probably at least 12 years. So, I was pretty excited to see them again as were a lot of people.

The crowd showed their love when they got on stage, and they showed it right to the bitter end. It was the loudest, most receptive crowd I had been in for quite a while.

I remember them giving an interview with Much Music once, many years ago not long after their first full length album “Dig” came out, and they were talking about how crazy their fans were, and how they had torn the floor monitors off the front of the stage at a show in Victoria, or somewhere like that. Well, this crowd was pretty subdued comparatively.

Once again, it’s a sign of my/our age. It seems lately I’ve ended up at a lot of “relive my youth” shows (Agnostic Front, Strung Out, and Sloan for example) and the common thread has been that we are all getting older, slower and less agile. This was a stand-there-and- move-about-a-bit kind of crowd, not a mosh-and-slam-into-each-other crowd like it would have been a decade ago. They were still loud, just not as active.

I Mother Earth is still a vibrant band, and Brian Byrne was leaping around quite athletically and breaking into his trademark moves that to me seem like interpretative dancing. Two drummers, Christian Tanna (Jag’s brother) and Danny Mansilla are an integral part of the I Mother Earth sound, with all kinds of hand drums, shakers and traditional rock drums being played extensively.

Often the songs broke down into long, stoner jam sessions with plenty of brilliant guitar wankery. Man, I love Jag’s guitar work; one of Canada’s greats.

Bassist Chuck Dailey is on tour with them right now though their usual bassist is Bruce Gordon who has been working with….the Blue Man Group?? Apparently. I hope Wikipedia didn’t let me down on that one.

Chuck Dailey’s other bass life is with another Canadian band, The Salads. He’s an excellent bassist, I have to say. All together, they make a pretty formidable force in the Canadian music scene and are clearly loved by their fans.

So, when all is said and done, I can tell you with all honesty that this was a great, great show. After eight years of absence from the road they have managed to re-solidify as a group with seeming ease. It was good to see them back again on their first stop in Winnipeg since reunification.

It’s also good to hear all of these classic can-con rock songs again after many years creating a nice night of nostalgia, once again.

It was an impressive performance from a band that, as I like to say, has still got it.

All words and images by Chris Hearn. You can read more from Chris on LTW here.

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