Hedley are the band that always come back. They’re the small town Canadian boys with a dream that plugged and plugged away, and a decade later, seem to have found the formula to success in the Canadian market. While their live show might be similar each time, sticking to arena antics such funny introduction and transitional videos, launching t-shirts from a t-shirt gun to the audience, and even playing a song from in the crowd, they will always come back, but in a way that’s different than before.
The first time I had ever heard of Hedley, they had just played a show at the Saddledome - opening for Bon Jovi on their "Lost Highway" tour in 2007. 10 year old me had to take my mom’s word for it: that they were amazing and could definitely play the Saddledome in a few years time.
On Friday night, that’s exactly what they were doing.
The band stormed the stage, opening with “Hello”, with lead singer Jacob Hoggard bouncing around, guitarist Dave Rosin and bassist Tommy Mac flip-flopping their sides of the stage with ear to ear grins. Notably absent was drummer Chris Crippin due to illness, however, the chemistry still remained between the other three band members. The band sprung into “Lost in Translation” and “Don’t Talk to Strangers” to get the crowd really going, before performing a stripped down and poignant “Gunnin’”, which is considered an “old song,” making me feel really old. Piano ballads like “For The Nights I Can’t Remember” and “Perfect” showcased Hoggard’s musicianship perfectly, and the crowd sang along at the top of their lungs. When the band jumped into their latest single “Lose Control”, there was not a single fan who wasn’t jumping along with them.
Hedley have a slick, well-oiled and calculated arena production. However, their genuine gratitude and ability to create an intimate moment that isn’t contrived or cliche with over 6,000 people is what makes them stand out. They always find a way to break out of the calculated element, and sometimes spontaneity is truly what makes a show memorable. That was evident when Hoggard brought a fan’s phone on stage, took a funny Snapchat and even called her dad. Sometimes, as great as it is to hear your favourite songs live, the interactions between the crowd and band, and vice versa, can be what fans will remember for years to come. If it wasn’t for Hoggard’s talent, his schtick would come off as crude and obnoxious, especially given the demographic that they appeal to. Hedley are from a generation of Canadian bands that seem to never have cracked the American market, unlike bands such as Sum 41 or Simple Plan. Their music isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, or genre defying, but given the fact that they’re successful enough to be continually playing stadiums across their home country, they don’t seem to be to bothered by that fact. As someone who grew up on that generation of Canadian pop-rock music, I can’t count the number of times that I have seen Hedley - even Hoggard said that the band can’t count how many times they’ve been to Calgary either. He addressed this to the crowd and listed off various venues they’ve played in the city: SAIT, Jubilee, MacEwan Hall, Cowboys... Although unsurprisingly claiming to not remember much of that one.
Who can ever really tell if a band is just going through the motions, or just repeating the same thank you speech night after night? The truth is, you can’t. Hedley’s genuine gratitude shows through the performance that they deliver, never shying away from giving it 110% night after night, tour after tour. Their four song encore included “Trip” performed solo by Hoggard from one of the aisles of the arena, and then burst into a full band version from the stage, and was followed up by “Kiss You Inside Out”, where the band instructed everyone to get up to the front, and even some snuck up to jump up and down with the band on stage. “Crazy For You” and “Anything” were the final two songs of the night, and showed that after all this time, fans are still crazy for Hedley. There was a buzz in the air walking out of the arena, as young kids excitedly chattered amongst themselves, recalling their favourite moments of the show. I left the show with a smile on my face, and I honestly didn’t want to leave. I recalled when I was young, and I first saw my favourite bands, Hedley being one of them. Their music isn’t different; with each new album it seems to be the same sort of pop music formula. It’s just amazing to watch music transcend, and to see young fans have the experience that I had when I was their age too, and that it's timeless enough to be shared with their parents, best friends, or both. Hedley’s energy and aura have created a special bond between them and their fans, and the band never undermine the importance of their loyal fans. Hedley have found the formula in their humility: they’re not an internationally recognized band, but us Canadians sure love them. Because at the end of the day, they’re those humble, boys next door that you just can’t help but root for.
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