Kurt Browning's Gotta Skate 6.0 - Toronto, ON - Oct. 13, 2006
written by Tina
This year's edition of Kurt Browning's Gotta Skate (aka Gotta Skate 6.0) was, I think I can say without hyperbole, the best Gotta Skate yet (with the possible exception of the first year, which had such a different premise and theme that it kind of stands alone). I may be a bit biased, since the Barenaked Ladies are my absolute favorite band in the world, but the energy level and enthusiasm the band brought to the show was fabulous. One thing that really distinguished BNL from most of the musical acts that perform at the Disson shows was that they seemed to be really, really into the show and having a blast, interacting with the skaters and each other with ease and a great sense of fun. They seemed to really enjoy both performing their music and were actually fans of watching the skaters skate. And their energy level seemed to transfer to the skaters, who also seemed to be having a ton of fun on the ice. It helped that the stage was pushed out onto the ice with a passageway in between the two halves of the stage, so the skaters were able to skate behind and in between the band. All in all, BNL ended up performing 11 songs, one of them as a standalone (no skaters) song.
The show opened with Kurt introducing the band, who kicked things off with "Get in Line", a song originally written for the King of the Hill soundtrack. Kurt then proceeded to introduce the skaters one by one (who entered through the passageway in the stage), and then to introduce the band. Tyler Stewart, the drummer, "looking spiffy" in his hat - Kurt said if he ever needed a soundtrack for his life, he'd hire Tyler. Jim Creegan, the bassist, on the "big violin". Steven Page, the frontman, who sang a long operatic note, and then said he sang because he couldn't skate. Kevin Hearn on the piano. And last, but not least, Ed Robertson on the guitar. Kurt then went on to introduce the first song and the first skaters.
The first song was "Sound of Your Voice" off of BNL's new album "Barenaked Ladies Are Me", a song performed by Steve Page. The skaters were Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, who skated a fun, energetic, yet beautifully romantic program to the upbeat, melodic song. The program was fast-moving, with Marie-France and Patrice moving quickly through a series of steps, turns, and poses that kept right up with the music and was a lot of fun to watch.
After "Sound of Your Voice", Steve Page said that the band was supposed to be taking a break, but he was just backstage and saw Kurt and David wearing the most awesome shirts. Said that he was a sucker for awesome shirts, especially ones featuring olives and pimentos, so they were going to stick around and watch. Kurt and David then came out as very dorky types, wearing dark-rimmed glasses, hats, and bowling-type shirts, and did a series of dorky steps down the ice, with David following Kurt, and Kurt getting all mock-antagonistic about it. Then Jamie came out and the two started fighting over her. For instance, they both went to lift her, and then David peeled off with her up in his arms, while Kurt was left with arm outstretched, but no one on it. Or David and Jamie began a death spiral, which Kurt got in between so Jamie skated right over him. Or Kurt and Jamie would start doing a pairs spin, only to have David swoop in and take her away as Kurt kept spinning. Eventually, they were both upstaged by Ed Robertson, who came out on skates and soon had Jamie attached to his arm, while Kurt and David drooped sadly. The song was "Lonesome Road" by Dean Elliot.
Kurt and David had to fill time while Ed got his skates off before the next number, and did so in hilarious manner, and in full character. Kurt started talking in a dopey voice "gee Fred, what happened?" "I dunno" "Well do you know anything?" "I dunno" "Well all I know is, we had a girl, and then she was gone. Who was that dorky guy?" "I dunno. Some sort of rock star" "Who is really slow taking his skates off!" and on... then when they still needed to kill time, David said, still in character "Well what would you do if you had a million dollars?" Kurt replied "Well, I'd buy a green dress" "Would you buy me a fur coat?" "But not a real green dress that's cruel" and then they started breaking from the "If I Had a Million Dollars" lyrics to improvise stuff relevant to the show. It was adorably cute and hilariously funny, but I don't know if it'll be on TV since I think it was to fill time for the audience. So much fun.
After this came Joannie Rochette, performing to "Beautiful", also off BNL's new album, while they performed live. This is one of those songs where you shouldn't really listen to the lyrics while watching the skating program, since the lyrics don't quite match what's going on. The song basically goes "she's beautiful, but there's not much more, she's paid to be beautiful" etc etc..it kind of disses the subject of the song and basically talks about her only being superficially beautiful. But if you don't listen carefully, you think they're just talking about a beautiful girl and it fits. The program is really nice - Joannie did a lovely job skating to the song.
After Joannie's program, she stayed on the ice and began to dance around to BNL performing "Too Little Too Late" (off of "Maroon"), and she was soon joined on the ice by Brian. The two of them skated cutely around each other, and then were off side-by-side down the ice doing flying camels, side-by-side jumps, footwork, etc. Brian then broke off and did a solo. Eventually they were joined by Kurt, who came out and did some mad footwork all the way around the edges of the ice that was fast, energetic, and lots of fun. Kurt and Brian then skated together down the ice. Eventually, Kurt and Joannie were standing by the stage watchingas Brian skated, and then shrugged and wandered off the ice so when Brian finally worked his way back to the stage, he found himself without friends, shrugged, and finished the program with a flourish.
BNL were given a bit of a break at this point, going backstage as Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman came out to perform "Vertigo" by U2. The program is very familiar to audiences since they performed it all over North America last year on the Stars on Ice tour, and they gave a typical high energy, extremely fun performance to it, helping sustain the energy level BNL had established. Their typical thrilling moves brought gasps from the audience, who seemed to really enjoy their program.
Following Ina & Zimmerman came Yuka Sato (one of Kurt's very favorite skaters who's so quiet on the ice that Kurt didn't even know she was coming up behind him!) who skated to a slightly quieter song, "First Day of My Life" by Melanie C. The song was a pretty, somewhat angsty song and Yuka did a beautiful job skating to it with emotion and grace.
BNL then came back out on the ice, with Ed saying that he'd like to thank their opening acts, U2 and Melanie C. Said that they were performing in the hallway, you'll see them on TV later. Kurt then talked about how when they were planning the show, Kurt relied a lot on Ed to figure out what songs would match what skaters, wanting to know his opinion on the matter. They said that for "Wind It Up" (also off the new album), which is a high energy rocker, there was one skater that popped into both their minds as being the only one suitable to skate it. Kurt said he'd go backstage to find out if that skater was ready while BNL kicked it off. So BNL performed about a minute of "Wind It Up" before Steven Cousins joined them on the ice. Steven seemed to really get into the number, proving them right as a skater who could really bring the energy level and dynamism to the song, skating up a storm on the ice. As he left the ice, Ed said "Ladies and gentlemen, my cousin Steven!" to which Steve Page replied "no, he's Steven's Cousin" so Ed said "oh right, it's my cousin Steven's cousin!".
To the thrill of the BNL fans in the audience, Ed then proceeded to tell us that they thought it'd be nice to perform a song for the audience, and that Kurt had okayed it - everything went through Kurt, and Kurt said this was ok. And then they broke into the opening chords of "The Old Apartment", their 10-year-old hit that really first helped them make it big in the US. This was a wonderful performance, as BNL live performances tend to be, helped along by the amount of fun and audience interaction BNL does (Ed bopping off to the side of the stage and engaging the audience as he plays the guitar, etc).
After BNL left the stage, Kurt introduced Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, who performed to "One", the U2 song remade by Bono and Mary J. Blige. I have to confess to not really liking this version of the song (I love the original U2 song) but Jamie and David did a lovely, dramatic job skating to the song. These two just shine on the ice, particularly Jamie, and they've always got such nice lifts and poses. They seem to have added some new ones to their repertoire, including a funky spin I can't describe. As a photographer, I also love how close the two stay together while skating, since it's much easier to fit them both in frame! This is a great program for them, and one I hope we'll see more this season.
The final program of the first act was a surprise for Kurt's wife Sonia. Kurt went down to the end of the ice where Sonia was sitting and was like, my beautiful wife Sonia, you look lovely tonight. Then he went on to say, you know that song whose lyrics we can never remember? Well now I know the lyrics! And tossed the microphone to someone and started to skate to "Sunny" by Bobby Hebb, directing his choreography (and blown kisses) to Sonia. After skating for a while, he whistled for his friends to join him, and David, Brian, and John came out to skate with him. This was a really cute number, and obviously very personal for Kurt and Sonia. At one point, Kurt went and pulled Sonia out of her seat and danced with her for a while, before giving her a kiss and getting pulled away by his friends. It's nice that Sonia was able to participate a bit in this show, since she no longer does the Gotta Skates. And Kurt seemed to enjoy surprising her.
The end of the 20 minute intermission was signaled by the dimming of the lights and Kurt appearing on the ice to, without much ado, begin skating his program to "Triptico" by the Gotan Project. This was kind of an interesting song - all instrumental, starting off a bit on the slower side but then speeding up with more instruments (I tend to think stringed instruments - violin, etc). The program featured a lot of footwork, intricately combined with the music, and a number of really nice jumps out of the footwork. The program was kind of serious, though not in an overly dramatic or somber way - just a bit lower key and a bit moody. This will be an interesting program to watch again on TV since I think I'll appreciate more of its details with further viewings.
After Kurt, BNL came back on stage, and were soon joined by Yuka Sato, skating to "Jane" off of "Maybe You Should Drive". Yuka just exudes joy when she's skating, and this song gave her a fitting venue for that joy. The song itself isn't exactly a super-happy song - it's about a girl who the singer falls in love with, but who's tired of the neverending string of "lovesick jerks" and who thinks the singer is mocking her when he tries to woo her. But it's also about an irrestible, attractive girl "Sweet Jane St. Clair" (the name is actually from the intersection of two streets in Toronto), and that fit Yuka nicely. Just a fun, light program.
Following Yuka came Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman skating to "Am I the Only One", a song that's mainly Ed and his guitar (with some support from Jim on his bass), and a song that Kurt performed to at the first Gotta Skate. It's a much lower key, soft, and more melancholy song than the other BNL songs performed up to this point, and Kyoko and John performed to it beautifully. It was nice to see them performing something that was a change of pace from the high-energy trick-filled programs they tend to do on Stars on Ice. They brought the right note of wistfulness and lyricism to the program.
BNL were given a four-song break at this point in the show, as Steven Cousins came out to skate to "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder. Dressed in a red and black wild shirt, and skating with a great deal of energy and dazzling smile, Steven tore up the ice and brought cheers and whoops from the crowd as he really got into performing this program. Steven definitely connects with the audience when he's on the ice, and this song definitely helped keep the energy level up and kept him shimmying to the music in a way that the audience very much appreciated.
Joannie Rochette quieted things down a bit with a beautiful skate to "Vole" by Celine Dion, a number that will not be shown on TV since it was a last minute substitution for another program, and they weren't able to clear the music rights to show this program in the broadcast. This was the number she did on the Canadian Stars on Ice tour this past season, though, so many audiences in Canada did get the chance to see her perform it.
The French theme was continued with Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon's performance to "Ne Me Quitte Pas" by Jacques Brel. This program is very familiar to audiences who saw them perform versions of it both competitively and in exhibition this past season. It's a song they clearly connect to, both dramatic and romantic, bittersweet and wistful. It always strikes me just how much drama ice dancers infuse into their performances, and Dubreuil and Lauzon have that drama down pat. It was a beautiful, heartfelt performance.
Beautiful and heartfelt only begins to describe the next performance by Brian Orser, to "The Story of My Life" by Neil Diamond. The program itself is a familiar one to skating fans, since Brian has performed it for years, but the program acquires more and more of a sense of poignancy as time goes by. There seems to be a world of meaning behind it, as Brian skates with his long history with all its ups and downs and time with the audience. You really feel like he is skating the story of his life, and it's really touching to watch. I'm sorry to have missed Jeff Buttle (who was replaced by Brian last minute when he sprained his back) but I always welcome the chance to watch Brian.
My elation went through the roof for the next program, though. Even though they didn't write it themselves (it's a remake of a Bruce Cockburn song), "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" is one of my very favorite Barenaked Ladies songs ever. Ever since I heard that Kurt was having BNL as his guests at Gotta Skate, I was hoping someone would skate to it, but I was used to the idea that no one ever skates to the songs I wish they would (I wanted Kurt to do "Break Your Heart" by the Barenaked Ladies). When they announced this song and who would skate to it, and the opening notes sounded over the speaker, I just about jumped out of my seat in joy. I was definitely bouncing a bit. Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were definitely who I would have picked to perform this number, and they didn't disappoint me one bit. This is a keeper of a program - beautiful singing, beautiful instruments, and beautiful skaters. Absolutely wonderful. And including a funny improv bit from BNL about "kicking the French judge".
The fun didn't stop there, though. After Jamie and David took their bows, Ed reminded us how we knew that Jamie and David were great rockers from the 2002 Olympics, when they joined BNL on stage. Jamie was an excellent guitar player, while David was a wild tambourine player, and BNL invited them to reprise those roles and see if they could still rock. As Jamie strummed the chords for "You Really Got Me", David hammed up a storm in the ice with his tambourine, getting funky on the ice, banging the tambourine against his butt, air-guitaring, and just proving to be an absolute goof with a great sense of fun. This bit got the energy level soaring in the arena, so much so that Kurt, who was slated to skate next, stepped up to Ed's microphone afterwards and said "ok that's it. You can all go home now." So very much fun, and exactly what I was hoping for when BNL were invited for this show.
The last solo program of the evening was of course Kurt, who skated to BNL's new single "Easy" off their new album. As Ed said after the program, Kurt indeed made everything look "easy", polishing off double axel after double axel and capping it all with triple toes that just looked effortless and were perfectly timed to the music. "Easy" has got a driving laid-back (how contradictory can I be?) swing to it, and Kurt just connected with the rhythm and feel of the music, skating a fabulous program.
The finale of the show was to "One Week", probably BNL's best known song/biggest hit. Anyone who's heard the song knows how fast and furious it is, and the skaters didn't disappoint, skating a high energy goofy number to it. The finale opened with the girls coming out and skating around to the "It's been one week since you looked at me, dropped your arms to the side and said I'm angry" before the guys came out and did their bit. Kurt of course had a number of breakout spots in this program, including a footwork bit down the ice with Brian Orser (with hilarious facial expressions), and bits where he did spread eagles and Besti squats in counterpoint with the skaters skating in a serpentine line down the ice. There were also bits for the pairs and dance team to do their thing, and for everyone to break into pairs or singles to spin (Steven Cousins spun Yuka Sato around). BNL continued their improv bits, throwing in "hot chicks in pantsuits!" as they sang (the girls all wore sequined sleeveless pantsuits), cracking the skaters up. This was a tremendously fun, high energy way to end the show (the skaters seemed to really enjoy it as well), and was a great finale. So great, in fact, that they came out and promptly ran through it again to get more camera angles, a repeat that BNL obligingly performed, telling the audience to pretend they were seeing it all for the first time.
Kurt then came out on the ice to kill time before retakes, thanking the sponsors and talking about how much fun it was, and how great the show was, and how he had the greatest band on the planet, but if people could stick around a bit longer for retakes, how great that would be. Said that the TV audience doesn't pay as much but for some reason gets to see a perfect show, go figure, and that it looks kind of odd when the audience disappears for the triple salchow, and then are back in the next shot, so it'd be wonderful if people would stick around and support the skaters through the retakes. He then went to the tunnel to find out what was going on, eventually putting on headphones to listen to the "voice of god" to find out what was happening, but not being able to understand anything he was being told until Lea Ann finally spoke out over the loudspeakers to tell him that there were no retakes, it was a perfect show. Kurt was like...that's like..never happened, right? Apparently even though there were a few glitches, they happened in places like Joannie's program which wasn't going to be shown on TV anyway, so no retakes were needed. Kurt felt bad for teasing the audience with retakes and then having nothing happen and was like, I feel like I should give them *something* extra. He put the microphone down and came skating across the ice, to the cheers of the audience, and mimed like he was about to do a backflip before laughing and setting up for a triple-toe instead. Unfortunately, his attempt to give us something extra was stymied by a bumbled triple toe, to his embarrassment (and loud "ahh!" yell, which cracked up the audience). Lea Ann thanked the audience and basically dismissed them as Kurt tried to get a microphone to talk to the audience again (which wasn't on, leading to more amusing facial expressions) before he finally was able to thank everyone and wish them a good night. And that was the end to a fantastically fun show.
I know this review has been extremely BNL-heavy, but they were a very integral part of the show. Kurt said that he was very intent on letting the band shine and not letting the skating get in the way of the music for this show, and the band did not disappoint. In my opinion, the band set a high level of energy and enthusiasm right from the get go, and helped make the show extra special. And a lot of opinions I heard nearby seemed to agree. The show will be broadcast Dec. 17 on NBC (4-6PM EST), and I believe rebroadcast on the Style Network soon after (Dec. 22? I'll have to check). It's definitely worth checking out.