I have a concert bucket list and at the very top is Triumph. I’m holding on to the dream that I’ll see the band perform, but just in case that doesn’t happen, we snatched up tickets to see Rik Emmett, vocals and guitar for the Canadian arena rock machine, at Londonderry, New Hampshire’s Tupelo Music Hall on September 12. Both evenings sold out, and I know why.
We were Tupelo Music Hall newbies for this show, but I have to say this venue is delightful. Seemingly carved from an old home, perhaps once an inn, the hall is cozy and the acoustics are stunning. With food on site and BYOB, the local in-the-know fans showed up with coolers and filled up on the fare. While waiting for the show, we were busy at a wine tasting at The Drinkery in the cellar of the hall and brought home several bottles from incrediBREW benefitting The Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire. Why am I telling you all this? Because if you get a chance to see a show at the Tupelo Music Hall, make the trip – it is a wonderful evening.
When the lights went out, and I mean it was dark, Charlie Farren, of 80s famed Farrenheit and The Joe Perry Project, opened the show. Entertaining and apparently well-known by fans, Farren’s set was a nice blend of stories and acoustic work. Blessed with the gift of a charm and velvety vocals, Farren can be seen again September 26th at Tupelo.
During the break, I got to thinking: An Acoustic Evening of Triumph. What exactly would that be like? Should I have dusted off the old CDs? Would I still know every single word and guitar riff? Then the place was dark again and Rik Emmett and Dave Dunlop took the stage and performed “Hold On.” All trepidation vanished.
Once the frontman in tight fitting stage clothing and performing before thousands, Emmett now seems to be relaxed and comfortable in his role as an elder statesman of rock and roll. Sharing stories about growing older and his life as a faculty member at Humber College in Toronto between songs, Emmett engaged the audience with his wit, drawing us in for a moment’s tale before heading back to the guitar for another song. I mention this because I appreciate an artist’s ability to grow older and find their place in the world, in technology, and remain vibrant, current, and a guiding force in their industry.
But let’s just be clear – yes, Emmett may be older and the leather pants might be a thing of the past, but his vocals can still rattle the timbers with his signature tenor and sound as good I as remember. Lighting up the room with the classic Triumph numbers “Lay it on the Line,” “Never Surrender,” “Fight the Good Fight,” and “Magic Power,” his vocals are fantastic and brought me home again – I spent a lot of time beside that old turn table as a teen – and I still do know every single word.
While I may have been paying more attention to the vocals and lyrics in the 1980s, this show reminded me of Emmett’s celebrated career as a guitarist. Along with the assistance of Dave Dunlop, this show featured Emmett’s legendary guitar work and offered up a masterful, sweet, Spanish-flavored guitar throughout. Thinking back on the Triumph catalogue, of course, this vibe was always there. I confess that I did forget. An Acoustic Evening of Triumph? Yes, the songs were full and rich and held steadfast to the character that made this band powerful and wild, able to pack arenas, and platinum selling. It was all there, just acoustic. The room was filled to overflowing with impressive talent and technique on the stage. Additionally, Emmett and Dunlop share powerful harmonies as well as the stage, each offering the other room to be in the spot light and show off their ability. It was a beautiful blend of talent, and they can be enjoyed on their release, Then Again…Acoustic Selections from the Triumph Catalogue.
I walked out of the show uplifted and revived. There was always a message – a charge, a positivity, a motivational kick in the ass – in the Triumph songs featuring Rik Emmett’s vocals and writing. The venue and the performers, however, layered another connection on top of the music with superior skill, sound quality, and even the fans seemed united in the comradery of the music. I do believe this show may have been the most “cell phone free” event I’ve attended in a very long time as fans settled in to just enjoy a wonderful evening.
Setlist: Hold On (Triumph song) – Petite Etude (Triumph song) – Lay It on the Line (Triumph song) – Libre Animado – Never Surrender – (Triumph song) – Midsummer’s Daydream (Triumph song) – Rocky Mountain Way (Joe Walsh cover) – Fight the Good Fight (Triumph song) – Only Time Will Tell – Red Hot – The Galaxy Song (Monty Python cover) – Three Clouds Across the Moon – Magic Power (Triumph song)
Encore: Suitcase Blues