April 25, 2009 – The paths of two legendary 1970s hard rock bands crossed last night as April Wine was joined on stage by Head East in Fort Yates, North Dakota at the Prairie Knights Casino. The venue was packed, perhaps sold out for the concert; a feat which can likely be attributed to April Wine’s popularity in the area during the group’s heyday. Their hard edged sound made them superstars in their homeland of Canada and earned them a great reputation around the world. The sound remained the same during last night’s dynamic performance which was truly a trip through time. Head East was a great fit for the first slot, and although keyboardist Roger Boyd is group’s sole original member, they managed to do great justice to the unique catalog. Both bands were a big part of the soundtrack of the ’70s so to speak, and April Wine in particular provided evidence that the soundtrack will continue to live on.
Head East broke out a loud and energetic set to start things off as they opened with “Gettin’ Lucky“. All eyes were immediately drawn to vocalist Darren Walker, a very talented addition to the band who did a great job of working the crowd and covering the high notes with ease. Equally energetic was the band’s leader and keyboardist Roger Boyd, who handled vocals during certain times during the show and appeared to be having the time of his life as he wailed away on his keytar-like synthesizer, a hallmark of the Head East sound. Glen Bridger and Greg Manahan provided the guitar element of the band and Eddy Jones rounded out the lineup on drums. Jones caught the crowd slightly off guard when he suddenly took over lead vocals during the first part of “Never Been Any Reason“, arguably the band’s most recognizable song. The crowd was hesitant to let loose during the majority of the set, but during this final song nearly everyone was on their feet watching Boyd unleash himself on the synthesizer.
Before too long, April Wine emerged on stage with the guitar driven hard rock sound they became known for with “Wanna Rock“, “Crash and Burn“, and “Big City Girls” – all three songs from 1981′s Nature of the Beast, the band’s commercial peak. Although Myles Goodwyn and Brian Greenway are joined on stage these days by two newcomers in bassist Breen LeBoeuf and drummer Blair MacKay, their tight performance and onstage chemistry made it seem as if all four members had been playing together for years. Goodwyn, the group’s frontman and main writer, has been singing some of the same songs for over 40 years but was able to keep it fresh by maintaining a powerful stage presence and giving it his best on each note. April Wine songs have a certain youthful element to them, in part created by Goodwyn’s unique voice, and it was remarkable to hear him reach that very same tone last night. The crowd also gave off a great energy as everyone took to their feet and sang along to classics like “Just Between You and Me” and “I Like to Rock“. Drummer Jerry Mercer was certainly missed; he retired just last year just shy of his 70th birthday, but the band has found a suitable replacement in MacKay who kept a tight groove during the show.
Blistering guitars throughout April Wine’s performance kept the band’s signature raw sound intact; in fact the overall mix of sound was nearly perfect with very audible vocals from Myles and yet a huge instrumental force throughout. Just like the Nature of the Beast album cover, the stage was aglow with a burning red tint for the entire set. In addition, there was clearly an established image for the group which was a contrast to the less coordinated Head East. Taking a break from the rock, the band also made a point to discuss their efforts in raising funds for juvenile diabetes research, a condition which Myles Goodwyn’s 12 year old son was diagnosed with several years ago. If you would like to learn more about the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, please follow this link - it’s certainly a worthy cause.
Without a doubt some of rock’s greatest groups have hailed from Canada, and April Wine is no exception. The band lived up to their reputation as a great live act with impeccable musicianship and showmanship. They’re touring extensively in 2009 so be sure to look for the group at several American rock festivals over the summer, and of course Canadian fans can catch the band on many occasions this year. All the latest can be found at www.aprilwine.ca, and for Head East information turn to www.head-east.com.