The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's latest Pops gave new meaning to the term 'culture shock' Friday night as it offered a program celebrating Manitoba's legacy of pop/rock/indie bands.
The three weekend concerts, in association with Junofest, showcase four of the province's top groups currently making international waves. The 105-minute program led by Alexander Mickelthwate also featured host/musician Matt Schellenberg who recently curated the WSO's gritty Pop Nuit satellite series, now a part of its annual New Music Festival.
Where this show succeeded in spades was packing the house with more youth than it has seen in years. Tonight, there were 1,801 music fans happily swilling beer, cheering, chatting, texting and just generally grooving with the tunes. Although Schellenberg advised against crowd surfing, it's safe to say some contemplated the idea.
Another pro was the almost tangible support, energy and passion for home-grown music, with the concert's razor-sharp light show lending a real, rock extravaganza vibe. And kudos to the maestro and the players for their gung-ho attitude, as they gamely beat, blew and sawed away at their own axes despite the challenges of being heard over their amplified counterparts.
The performers, too, seemed to have an energy about them, showing that they were truly thrilled to be sharing the stage with the WSO; when Schellenberg said it was a 'dream come true' for his merry band of players, everyone in the house believed him without a doubt.
After an opening overture Tommy, Imaginary Cities featuring musical duo Marti Sarbit and Rusty Matyas took the stage to perform Chasing the Sunset; Bells of Cologne; and Hummingbird. Next came five-man group The Lytics in Big City Girl, Stay Calm and Toot Your Own Horn.
The second half opened with the second overture of the night, A Tribute to The Beatles, sounding incredibly square next to the rest of the night's offerings.
Next, the crowd was treated to Juno Award-wining alternative roots band Nathan Music Co.'s topical Osborne and Pembina, The Wind and Assemble.
The WSO arguably saved the best for last, Schellenberg's band Royal Canoe, nominated for a 2014 Juno Award for their album Today We're Believers (Best Alternative Album of the Year).
The group played Bathtubs and Exodus from their new album, as well as Button Fumbla complete with falsettos, effects pedals, tambourines and shakers as the big orchestral band in back played on.
As expected, the audience leapt to their feet in a rousing standing ovation.
The concert repeats Saturday at 8 p.m., with a Sunday 2 p.m. matinee at the Centennial Concert Hall.