By Trevor Morelli
CALGARY – Over the last few years, CanCon rockers 54•40 have revealed a more intimate side of themselves through acoustic shows, which feature their classic hits reimagined with expanded yet familiar arrangements.
Regardless of whether it’s one of these up-close-and-personal theater shows or a more traditional rock show, the band is excited to just get up and play for people, even after nearly four decades as a band.
“Well, we want to do both,” says bassist Brad Merritt with a chuckle.
54•40 has blended many different styles into their impressive catalogue spanning eleven studio albums. “One Day in Your Life” starts with concise country-style finger picking before exploding into a catchy chorus, while “Since When” employs ‘70s keyboards to get your head nodding to its infectious pop rhythm. The reimagined versions on ‘La Difference: A History Unplugged’ (2016) integrate violin, guitar, banjo, mandolin and more.
“We want to do it all. We’ve been at this for 37 years and we’re still ambitious. What it comes down to is we love it. It’s kind of a natural variety for us, and it feels good. It’s like putting on a comfortable pair of shoes or something.”
Merritt says the smaller venues and close atmosphere took some getting used to, but now the band is glad they have the option to do either acoustic or electric gigs.
“It took us a little while to sort of adapt and do these acoustic performances. You’re kind of laid bare, you’re out there quite naked, exposed. There’s a lot of space, and so it’s more of an intimate kind of experience, not just for the audience, but for us as well.”
In the beginning, it took a lot of long days on the road for 54•40 to make a name for themselves but now they’re in a place where they can be themselves and choose the gigs they want to play.
“There was one tour where we did four shows in Missouri, if you can believe that,” recalls Merritt.
“You probably can’t name four cities in Missouri. Last year we did 42. And that’s kind of a nice number for us. So once again we kind of say yes to some things and others we say ‘Maybe we’ll take a pass for now.’”
He adds: “And I don’t take that for granted. It’s a nice place to be.”
On January 26, the band released a new album dubbed ‘Keep on Walkin’. The album demonstrates that the band is absorbing the diverse instrumentation style of their ‘La Difference’ recording and live experience, incorporating more sounds and styles into their music than ever before to bouncy, pop infused results. Merritt says a full-blown electric Canadian tour in support of the record should be coming in the fall; meanwhile, the soon to occur tour is unplugged.
Catch 54•40 live and on stage Wednesday, Feb. 14 at the Bert Church Theatre (Airdrie), Thursday, Feb. 15 at Bo’s Bar and Grill (Red Deer), Saturday, Feb. 17 at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre (Vernon), Thursday, Feb. 22 at the McPherson Playhouse (Victoria), Friday, Feb. 23 at The Port Theatre (Nanaimo) and Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Tidemark Theatre (Campbell River).54•40, Bert Church Theatre, Bo’s Bar and Grill, Keep on Walki, McPherson Playhouse, rock, The Port Theatre, Tidemark Theatre, Vernon Performing Arts Centre