Toronto, Ontario - Throughout the decades, we have been graced with some superb Canadian musicians. Bands and artists like The Guess Who, Rush, and Neil Young are all from the Great White North and they gained a lot of international stardom as well. In the late 1980 and 1990s, an explosion of rock, and alternative artists emerged, or gained a strong foothold in the music industry right here in this great country. And some experienced huge success outside our own 4 walls.
Bands like The Barenaked Ladies, Sloan, The Pursuit of Happiness and Odds became synonymous with Canadian music in the decade ahead of the millenium. With some of these guys coming out of the music scene here in "TO", they became huge stars in this city. I recall one late summer day in the early 90s, when I was walking down Queen St on a random Saturday afternoon, Moe Berg of The Pursuit of Happiness walked past me, and I thought "HEY! That's Moe Berg!!" I never know whether I should say "Hey man!!" or just leave them to their day, but on this day, I chose the former, and just let him walk by. But he certainly was a well known figure, especially in Toronto.
And then in 2017, 4 friends, each of the afformentioned bands in the previous paragraph started playing shows together under the moniker Trans-Canada Highwaymen. This new super-group (a term the band has a great deal of fun with) was an opportunity for these guys to play some shows with each other, playing tracks from each of their respective catalogues. With life being life, all of a sudden this became a thing. So much so, that the band chose to record an album, featuring hits from some of Canada's most beloved artists.
In October of 2023, explosive hits vol. 1 was born. Of course, every band these days needs to have their own theme song, so the guys also wrote "Theme from Trans-Canada Highwaymen" (check it out below). It's a song about how the band came to be, and it totally highlights the fun herein.
Steven Page - vocals, guitars, keys
Chris Murphy - vocals, drums, guitars, bass
Craig Northey - vocals, guitars, bass, drums
Moe Berg - vocals, guitars, bass, drums
On December 13, 2023, the Highwaymen rolled into Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern. How much more fitting could that be? I mean, the Highwaymen are Canadiana to the core, and we all know the importance to the Toronto (and quite frankly Canada) music scene the Horseshoe has.
One of the great things about covering a concert is the interaction with the fans. I'm not quite the extrovert that I could be with this job, but concerts allow me an opportunity to break out of my shell a little. While standing in line, a conversation was struck up with 2 guys at the bar, just chilling with a drink after work, and not there for the show. The question was raised as to who was paying, and I explained the band. They immediately knew the players, and we ended up chatting about Canadian music in general. As was the case with the couple behind me who had travelled from Niagara on this school night. They said they hadn't been to this venue in decades. It's so great to hear of specific artists bringing people out to see some live music. It's so crucial to our mental health, and the economy. We need to continue to embrace it.
The full lights were up once we gained access to the back area of the venue where the magic happens. And what I had never seen before was that the lights remained up, even as the band hit the stage at 9:15. There was no opening act for this one, so there were the Highwaymen, ready to go! The cool thing I thought was that the constant lighting gave this such a more intimate feeling. It was as though we were at the band's jam space, or hell, even in one of their basements in 1989. Such a simple thing, but such a great feeling!
The Barenaked Ladies track "It's All Been Done" was the opening song, of course sung by Steven Page, and right away, we had a very good sense of what we were in for. At the song's conclusion, Chris Murphy, behind the kit at this point, quips "We're here to play the greatest hits of all time", which brings laughter as the bands goes into "Someone's Who Cool" by Odds, and sung by Craig Northey. Not to be outdone, Moe Berg then covers The Pursuit of Happiness track "Hard to Laugh", and we've already covered 3 of the 4 artists' music.
With the Highwaymen, these members are typically at the front of the band, so they each bear the burden of playing instruments that are not a part of their typical lives. I mean, these guys are musicians, so it's not like asking me to play drums, but despite their talents, I'm sure it's not a "simple" task. With Chirs Murphy behind the kit for the first 3 songs, he pops out to the front, switching places with Northey, and the band covers the Michel Pagliaro song "Lovin' You Ain't Easy".
After the Odds song "It Falls Apart", Chris Murphy says "How do you follow up from that song?" to which Steven Page replies "Watch me!" and the band goes into the Barenaked Ladies song "Jane". This one brings a huge cheer from the crowd as they join in singing the chorus. A huge applause emmanates after this one.
Like the exchange ahead of "Jane", after most of the songs, there is a ton of fun banter from the band. Page makes fun of the A&W "Glory Hole" (as he calls it) at the front bar of the Tavern, and Murphy is a true comedian throwing out one-liners like "Moe, do you want to tell the crowd how much this next song influenced your writing? Just look at the liner notes I added to your setlist!"
While we don't actually hear a Sloan track until the midway point when the band covers "Underwhelmed", the band was alternating through hit songs of their respective writing, and hit songs of amazing Canadian talent like Lighthouse, and The Guess Who. There weren't any moments throughout the evening where the maximum capacity crowd wasn't singing and dancing. I have seen "Sold Out" shows at this venue but this one literally had people spilling out into the front bar area. I usually try to work myself into a couple different places for some different angles, but it was literally next to impossible to move around here.
On December 3rd, the music world lost a true legend in the passing of April Wine's Myles Goodwyn. It's a loss that has been heartfelt by music fans everywhere, especially here in Canada. It's also especially dear to the musicians of this great country. On December 7, 54-40 paid tribute to Goodwyn during their performance at this same venue and the Trans-Canada Highwaymen followed suit here, playing "Tonight is a Wonderful Time to Fall in Love", sung by Craig Northey.
This show was definitely the most chill, relaxed, bunch of buddies hanging around and jamming concerts have ever seen. The guys were funny, and having a great time, the music sounded great, and the fans had a blast. For the record, so did I!
But fear not reader! Not all is completely lost. A new show was recently announed by the band, to play at The Opera House on Saturday March 30, 2024. If you missed the December 13 gig, seriously, do yourself a favour, and grab your tickets for the next one.
It's All Been Done (Barenaked Ladies cover)
Someone Who's Cool (Odds cover)
Hard To Laugh (The Pursuit of Happiness cover)
Lovin' You Ain't Easy (Michel Pagliaro cover)
Theme from Trans-Canada Highwaymen
It Falls Apart (Odds cover)
Jane (Barenaked Ladies cover)
Pretty Lady (Lighthouse cover)
Underwhelmed (Sloan cover)
Tonight Is a Wonderful Time to Fall in Love (April Wine cover)
Undun (The Guess Who cover)
She's So Young (The Pursuit of Happiness cover)
The Other Man (Sloan cover)
The Old Apartment (Barenaked Ladies cover)
Make You Mad (Odds cover)
Brian Wilson (Barenaked Ladies cover)
Rock Me Gently (Andy Kim cover)
The Rest of My Life (Sloan cover)
I'm an Adult Now (The Pursuit of Happiness cover)
Concert Photo Gallery
show date: December 13, 2023
Trans-Canada Highwaymen Online