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Reid gets cosy with audience

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Fans had no need to worry Johnny Reid’s move to arenas would be less intimate than his previous Winnipeg appearances.

Three songs into his Friday night MTS Centre concert, the Scottish-born Canadian was off the stage and meeting his fans. This was no quick trek, either: for two full songs Reid signed autographs, posed for pictures, danced with a few lucky ladies and kissed and hugged others.

He visited people on both sides of the arena — running ahead of his security guard who had to hustle to keep up — hung out in the north section where a fan helped out with vocals and spent some extra time in the wheelchair section.

That, folks, is a lesson in how to keep your fans happy.

Not that the rest of the Tartan Army, as his fans call themselves, were disappointed. The 38-year-old is a natural entertainer and crowd pleaser whose show is akin to a rock and soul revue. He has been embraced by the country music crowd, but there wasn’t much twangy about the R&B, soul and rock he and his 11 piece band — which included a four-piece horn section — and two backup vocalists offered up over the course of the 110-minute set.

A giant noise meter displayed on two video screens got the crowd screaming before curtains surrounding the stage dropped amid a blast of pyro to reveal Reid centre stage decked out in a black shirt, white jacket, flashy red pants and white shoes for the piano-based rocker Let’s Have a Party, which had more jump live than on his latest album, Fire It Up.

He kept things upbeat with the ’60s-sounding rocker Old Flame before the boogie-woogie vibe of Dancin’ Shoes, which is when he leapt off the stage and started his tour around the arena.

Between songs he told stories about his family, asked if the crowd approved of his red pants (they did) and talked about coming to Canada from Scotland as a 15-year old and having to get dressed up in a parka, gloves and a tuque.

"I arrived in Canada on July 18," he deadpanned in his thick Scottish brogue.

He slowed things down for Kicking Stones and Today I’m Gonna to Try and Change the World before being joined by opening act Carolyn Dawn Johnson for Baby I Know It.

She left the stage but Reid didn’t have to sing the next song alone. A Woman Like You and had everyone on their feet singing, clapping, pumping their fists in the air and screaming the chorus during the soul-pop-oriented Fire It Up, which built from a simple bass drum beat to a roaring climax while images of flames were projected on three video screens behind the band before real flames shot out of the stage.

Then it was time to treat the fans at the back to another close-up as he appeared on a satellite stage near the sound booth for the autobiographical ballad Right Where I Belong, even pulling a child up on stage with him and singing to her while he held her.

Needless to say, he made another Reid fan for life.

Another child was invited up and Reid spun her around gently while a mirror ball illuminated the crowd during the sentimental Dance With Me.

He got the crowd back into a party mood with the horn-driven Yeah, It’s All Right, featuring a washboard player, the anthemic Let’s Go Higher and countrified toe-tapper Darlin’, which turned into another giant sing-along before ending in a barrage of fireworks.

The night ended with Reid and his entire band decked out in Winnipeg Jets jerseys for the ballad Till We Meet Again, a natural finishing number for Reid who ensured most, if not all, of the crowd who witnessed Friday’s concert would be back for another Reid show no matter where he performed.

April 27, 2012
MTS Centre
Attendance: 10,000
★★★★ out of five

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