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A little in love

Brandt's journey brings him to Bell MTS Place

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press
Albertan Paul Brandt charmed the crowd at Bell MTS Place Friday evening when he brought his tour, The Journey, to Winnipeg.

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press Albertan Paul Brandt charmed the crowd at Bell MTS Place Friday evening when he brought his tour, The Journey, to Winnipeg.

The name of Paul Brandt’s tour, The Journey, is apt for a few reasons

The tour is named after his most recent releases, a pair of EPs titled The Journey, with one focused on his time in Calgary, the other on his time in Nashville. The concept of a journey played out in real time, with the four acts on the bill ranging from early career to mid-career to veteran.

Brandt filled the final slot on that scale, opening the show with a surprisingly dramatic video listing impressive stats from his 20-year career: most played Canadian country radio artist in history, according to Nielson, 26 Top 10 singles, numerous gold and platinum albums, most awarded Canadian male country artist.

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The name of Paul Brandt’s tour, The Journey, is apt for a few reasons

The tour is named after his most recent releases, a pair of EPs titled The Journey, with one focused on his time in Calgary, the other on his time in Nashville. The concept of a journey played out in real time, with the four acts on the bill ranging from early career to mid-career to veteran.

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press
Brandt filled his set with tons of oldies but goodies Friday night, much to the delight of the fans in attendance.

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press Brandt filled his set with tons of oldies but goodies Friday night, much to the delight of the fans in attendance.

Concert review

Click to Expand

Paul Brandt

Feb.8, Bell MTS Place

Attendance: 3,500

3.5 stars out of 5

Brandt filled the final slot on that scale, opening the show with a surprisingly dramatic video listing impressive stats from his 20-year career: most played Canadian country radio artist in history, according to Nielson, 26 Top 10 singles, numerous gold and platinum albums, most awarded Canadian male country artist.

And then Brandt, 46, appeared centre stage, seated on a guitar case coated with stickers, dressed in classic country garb — black cowboy hat, black boots, black vest, black jeans — ready to launch into the title track, The Journey.

Brandt is an undeniably likeable character. He’s the epitome of the Canadian stereotype; polite, genuine in his banter and storytelling, over-accommodating (Brandt stopped mid-song for a fan selfie on more than one occasion), a little bit corny and doesn’t emit even a whiff of ego despite the laundry list of accolades he’s earned. He took time to share his stage with the opening acts, with High Valley joining him for the lovely ballad When You Call My Name, Jess Moskaluke for I’m an Open Road and Hunter Brothers for the foot-stomping Life’s a Railway to Heaven and a mostly a capella rendition of Amazing Grace. Not every headliner would sacrifice that much solo set time, but as Brandt grinned his way through the collaborations, it’s clear he’s in it for the fun and not the spotlight.

Keeping the journey theme in mind, Brandt filled his set with tons of oldies but goodies, including I Do and My Heart Has a History from 1996’s Calm Before the Storm (the former was accompanied by a sweet collection of Brandt’s own wedding photos with wife Liz Peterson), and 2001’s Small Towns and Big Dreams, which took him to a small, empty B-stage at the back of the floor where all five Hunter Brothers crammed in to join him for their two songs, leaving Brandt’s slick six-piece band back on the main stage.

After sauntering back to the big stage, Brandt rounded out his main set with a collection of hits, including Leavin’, Didn’t Even See The Dust and Alberta Bound, which had the energized pit and floor crowd dancing, but wasn’t enough to stir many of those in the stands, who remained seated as they had for most of the night.

After a quick pause, Brandt returned to finish his very tight 75-minute set with on-the-nose Thank You, Thank You, Convoy and a fun cover/medley of Johnny Cash’s Walk the Line featuring all three opening acts once again.

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press
Brandt takes a minute out of his show to take a selfie with fans, Friday.

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press Brandt takes a minute out of his show to take a selfie with fans, Friday.

Brandt’s journey has been a long one, but there’s something to be said for a guy who continues to strive to do better even when he doesn’t have to. Hunter Brothers and Moskaluke opened the night with a brief set each.

The five members of the Hunter Brothers are, in fact, brothers (they also had an additional guitarist), and they have that well-worn, comfortable vibe together that is typically only possible in family bands. Their harmonies were tight, their banter was funny and their songs were what you would expect from a band of brothers from small-town Saskatchewan; wholesome, with plenty of references to gravel roads and falling in love. The small crowd in the pit was incredibly enthusiastic.

Moskaluke has steadily become a more recognizable name in the Canadian country music scene; the 28-year-old, also from Saskatchewan, has one full album and a handful of EPs under her belt, as well as a platinum-certified single, Cheap Wine and Cigarettes, which closed out her 25-minute set. Moskaluke is rooted in the pop-country genre, definitely looking the part Friday night in thigh-high pink boots, black shorts and a sparkling top. She has a heartiness to her voice that is instantly appealing. She knows how to work a crowd and how to work a cover song, and offered a nice change of pace from the otherwise all-male lineup.

Third on the bill was High Valley, a duo from Alberta, also made up of brothers (Brad and Curtis Rempel), who were backed by a four-piece band. It’s clear both Rempels are in their element on stage; there’s a looseness to what they do — lots of stories, lots of pandering to the crowd about the Jets and the Prairies, lots of warmth in their interactions — and it’s backed with genuine musical skill. The vocals were muffled at the beginning of the set, however, sounding as though the songs were being heard through an old radio speaker. The energy of the room went up during Young Forever, as the crowd shouted the title phrase to the rafters, and High Valley finished on a high note with jaunty fan favourites She’s With Me and I Be U Be.

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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