by Scott Roos
photos by Deanna Roos
This past Tuesday, June 20th, at the EA Rawlinson Centre for the Arts, critically acclaimed singer-songwriters Murray McLauchlan, Ian Thomas, Cindy Church and Marc Jordan (aka Lunch At Allen's) took a near capacity audience on a heartfelt, humourous, whimsical and nostalgic musical journey. With the proceedings of the evening unfolding like a hybrid between an "Unplugged" and "Storytellers" style concert, each member of the group took turns regaling the audience in song. As the evening progressed it was obvious that this crew enjoys each other's company and performing together.
"Having a chance to be a backup singer and support on some of these guys' hits, and that's what it gives everybody in this band a chance to do, is exciting territory," Ian Thomas told NSMZ in a telephone interview prior to the concert, "We've all fronted our own bands but to be there to back your friends, boy there's a privilege that's a low heat, lot of fun scenario."
There were two sets with a brief intermission between each one. Each group member performed two songs per set with a group encore at the very end. With the level of legendary talent on the stage, the audience got a lot of bang for their buck.
Marc Jordan kicked off the proceedings with his hit "Marina Del Rey". Compared to McLauchlan and Thomas, Jordan presented as more introverted. His storytelling always packed a surprise twist that provided a belly laugh from the crowd. His songs were captivating in their brilliance.
"Mark's got the darkest sense of humor of anybody I know. It's hilarious and it's droll and you wonder where he is going with this and then this ridiculously tall tale rolls out. He's got great timing, he's really a very very funny guy," commented Thomas on Jordan's comic delivery. He's bang on with this assessment.
Cindy Church added a lot of depth to the group. Opening with "Never Been Kissed", her songs added a combination of sentimentality and intimacy and fit in well with the guys' big hits. From an accompaniment perspective, Church played some guitar but also provided a percussive element by using brushes on a tambourine which was pretty cool.
"She fits in like a glove in so many ways - a wonderful additional voice to the harmonies. It's really amazing how much her presence brings to the party," Thomas explained of Church's roll within the group
Ian Thomas added a few "can't leave the building without playing" hits to the proceedings. Of course, "Painted Ladies" was an immediate crowd pleaser. He also sang "Right Before Your Eyes" which was a hit for Thomas in 1977 and then later on in the 80's for America, which was also met with the expected appreciation.
McLauchlan and Thomas have played together a lot over the years so, as expected, the two were a great one two punch in the humour department. Thomas is a very versatile performer, adept at the guitar, great comedic timing and a fabulous storyteller.
"I love the stupidity of our species," Thomas told NSMZ, "The absurdity of it all. I think humor is such a distraction. Even in the darkest moments you can find something so absurd you can't stop laughing."
Last but certainly not least, Murray McLauchlan opened strong with his megahit "Down By the Henry Moore" which, within the first few measures drew a huge pop from those in attendance. Straight up, he is an icon in the Canadian music business but, at the same time, takes the stage with grace and humility. Watching him, it's apparent that, even with decades of experience as a performer, that he is still trying to better himself and improve his craft. Yes, he played "Farmer's Song" as well. How could he not?
"I'm not a great believer in retirement. I don't understand why anyone would ever do that; at least anyone who's in the arts. I've worked very hard to try over the years to get better at what I do and constantly reinvent it. I think I'm starting to get to the point where I feel pretty confident about what I do now," McLauchlan explained to NSMZ in a 2021 interview.
After watching and experiencing a Lunch At Allen's show in its entirety, it's very clear that he speaks for everyone in the group. They all work together seamlessly to create a great experience. The musical talent on display is legendary. The songs are iconic. The humour and whit is exceptional. Big props to the Rawlinson staff for helping to create an atmosphere that was truly memorable. Big props to Lunch At Allen's, never stop never stopping, guys.