Country recording artist Johnny Reid makes his way through the crowd at Westman Place on Thursday. A sold-out crowd of approximately 5,900 people saw the show. It was the first sold-out concert at Westman Place since Nickelback’s show in 2004. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Country music star Johnny Reid takes to the stage during his Fire it Up, Let Love Live Again tour stop at Westman Place on Thursday. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
The screaming began as soon as shadows appeared behind the white curtain shrouding the stage in the Keystone Centre’s Westman Place.
And once the curtain dropped, yells turned to a collective roar as Canadian (by way of Scotland) recording star Johnny Reid bounded across the platform.
In rusty-red pants, a black T-shirt, and a white jacket and shoes, the enthusiastic and immediately likable Reid began what would be a consistently raucous show with the musical invitation, "Let’s Have a Party." And the sell-out crowd of 5,900 responded with an enthusiastic "Yes!"
Many sprang up and began dancing, while others stomped their feet, clapped along, or simply moved and grooved in their seats.
Reid jumped and gyrated, making eye contact with numerous women in the audience who were more than delighted to shimmy and share a brief moment as the focus of their hero’s attention.
And Reid, too, was completely dedicated to his audience all night long. Obviously comfortable with the touchy-feely nature of his business, he shook hands, embraced children and handed out what appeared to be autographed photos to numerous fans.
He even had his ultra-talented13-piece band extend the introduction to song number two so he could deliver a photo to "that wee girl that was up here just a second ago."
Once the youngster had photo in hand, he rolled into "Old Flame," skipping about the stage, shuffling and strutting with seemingly limitless energy, his movements reminiscent of Mick Jagger in the Rolling Stones’ heyday.
As the strains of "Dancing Shoes" began, he leapt into the crowd, dancing, hugging, clapping hands with his legion of fans. During "You Gave My Heart a Home," he headed way up into the stands, connecting one-on-one with folks in almost every section of the main arena. It was pandemonium for a bit, with Reid’s security detail on high alert, as they had trouble keeping up to him as he pranced about the venue. He singled out a fan who was overcome with emotion, sang to her and tenderly kissed her forehead before he left her company.
Reid carried a little girl back on stage with him and set her down to boogie beside one of his singer/dancers while he bopped to the front of the stage singing "Love Makes the World Go Around." Feeding off the near-frenzied crowd, his ever-present grin and apparently boundless energy were contagious.
No one could help but smile at his obvious zest for his craft and the lusty renditions of his hit songs. With barely a break between selections, Reid continued to deliver powerhouse performances throughout his one-hour-and-40-minute show.
"Kicking Stones," Reid’s first ballad of the evening, had concert-goers fall silent, riveted by his every word. And while his lively presentation was invigorating and just plain fun, it was in ballads such as this that his skill as a vocalist and musical communicator really shone.
"I just love him," said one fervent fan. "For one thing — his voice. He’s like a country Rod Stewart.
"And I brought tissues —some of his songs are so emotional. He really touches me."
She wasn’t alone. Many tears welled up during tunes such as the sensual and sexy "Dance With Me" and the heart-wrenching "Thank You," chart-topping tunes delivered with such passion and poignancy one would have to have been made of stone not to respond.
Reid dedicated "A Woman Like You" to Betty, whom he acknowledged from the stage, saying she’d grown up three miles from where he did in Scotland, and who’d come all the way from the old country for Thursday night’s concert.
"I’d appreciate it, please, if you’d go back to Scotland and tell them there’s this wee Scottish boy who moved to Canada and made a whole bunch of friends," he said, indicating the crowd.
Audience participation was loud and proud in such songs as "Fire It Up" where he acknowledged the people’s efforts, instructing his band members to remove their earpieces out so they could "hear the people."
The joint was jumping all night, and fine work by a great camera crew made all the nuances of the performance easily viewable on the two screens set to either side of the stage. The performing area itself was impressive — four-tiered and backlit with screens, effective lighting and dazzling pyrotechnics.
A guest appearance by the talented, harmonic duo The Stellas gave Reid a one-song break mid-show. And Carolyn Dawn Johnson opened the evening with her piercing, pure and heartfelt vocals, warming up the crowd with recognizable hits such as "Georgia," "Complicated," "Single White Female" and "Don’t Let Me Die of Broken Heart."
But while people’s response to both guests was warmly appreciative, it was Reid they’d come to see, and he didn’t disappoint, even for a moment. The show was non-stop, the entertainment continuous, and the love just went on and on.
"I’ve been playing in Dauphin (Countryfest) long enough to know that people in this part of the country have some rhythm," Reid cajoled during "It’s All Right." "C’mon, ladies — you gotta shake what your momma gave you!"
And they did. All the way through "Right Out of the Blue," "Let’s Go Higher" and the final tune, "Darlin’," where Reid’s raspy chops knocked everybody’s socks off. The whole evening was a delight — energized, impassioned, exuberant — the joint was jumping all night long.
Lengthy applause drew the players back to the stage for one more number — a Scottish anthem called "Until We Meet Again," which was a fitting ending to a memorable concert.
"Thanks so much. God bless. Love one another," Reid said before departing the stage. "We’ll see you next time."
And it was evident "next time" can’t possibly be soon enough.
» Diane Nelson is a former Brandon Sun writer, who is now a media instructor and professional vocalist.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 28, 2012