You wouldn’t know that Carl Dixon recovered from a life-threatening car accident not too long ago, because the way in which he fearlessly tore through The Guess Who songbook last Friday evening was indicative of an artist whose best is yet to come. He’s been given a second chance at performing the music he loves with a group of guys that are as passionate and proficient as any version of his former band out there in 2020, so each show serves as both a celebration of his past and a reminder of what continues to be a productive present.
Because we’re living in an era where multiple incarnations of a band can tour simultaneously without the audience batting an eye, Dixon wasted little time establishing the credibility of his current project. Bassist Bill Wallace, who joined The Guess Who in 1972 and co-wrote “Clap For the Wolfman,” and guitarist Laurie MacKenzie, whose run with The Guess Who overlapped with Dixon’s, did their part to ensure that these songs were infused with the respect they deserve.
“Bus Rider,” “Star Baby,” and “Glamour Boy” enlivened the crowd early on, the last of which allowed Dixon to stun with his sublime vocal handling of a song that never got the American exposure of the others despite being inspired by David Bowie. What worked about his approach was that he wasn’t trying to be Burton Cummings, he simply sang in his own voice and allowed the intangible sway of the music to come naturally. While he especially shined on other ballads such as “Laughing” and “These Eyes,” he nailed the snarling attitude behind “American Woman” and “No Time” just as well.
The collective power of the lineup was most pronounced during “No Sugar Tonight” and “Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon,” tunes that rock hard and leave plenty of space for instrumental interplay. Dixon and MacKenzie traded licks in much the same fashion that Kurt Winter and Don McDougall did circa 1972, so their on-stage chemistry was in full bloom.
Other highlights included Bill Wallace delivering an inspired vocal on “Hand Me Down World” and 97 Rock Jock Carl Russo doing his best Wolfman Jack on “Clap For the Wolfman.” Dixon and company closed out the show with the title track from 1970’s “Share the Land,” which, coincidentally, is the same way Burton Cummings chose to conclude his solo set at the Molson Canal Concert Series back in 2011.
Having now interviewed and seen Carl Dixon perform in the span of two weeks has left me convinced that he was never going to let the accident get the best of him. His talent and commitment to the music are too vast to let the inequity of life bring him down, so, if he happens to make his way to our area again soon, don’t miss out.