Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts

Date and Venue 8 June 2013, 9pm | Commodore Ballroom

Reviewer Roger Wayne Eberle

I went with no expectations into last night’s Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts concert at the Commodore Ballroom, and I came out “Doin’ Fine.” At least that was one of the many devastatingly decent, original rock music tunes still running around my head. I also got their Best of… CD.

Where are these lads? Where are these Hearts? The capacity crowd that crushed their way into the Commodore seem to know more than I know about why they are so legendary. So I ask. The guy and his wife behind me left their kids at home in Delta. He tells me how his purchase of Bentall’s first CD twenty-five years ago was one of his most memorable rock albums. These lads, these Hearts, are heavily favoured contenders among the locals. I wait to see why.

Soon it is apparent that everyone assembled on the dance floor in front of the stage know all the lyrics to the band’s songs. This is a happy, enthusiastic, energetic crowd.

Partway through the concert, Bentall himself shares how this evening’s performance is a kind of a quarter century commemoration of their first album, and he seems genuinely sentimental about it, waxing eloquent about how playing the Commodore is as about as close as you can get to a religious experience in the world rock and roll in Canada.

This comes before an acoustic tribute song about British Columbia to another Canadian icon, Mr. Stompin’ Tom Connors, and just after a pretty cool Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody” interlude involving Bentall and bassist Dave Reimer playing their guitars right down on their knees as they croon “Baby, baby, I’d get down on my knees for you, if you would only love me, like you used to do…”

Cute and clever quickie covers aside, there is nothing artificial about Barney Bentall or his Legendary Hearts. Right from his inimitably infectious smile down to the finger-licking ferocity of his smoking hot guitar, Barney Bentall is the real deal. This guy is kind of like a Canadian Bruce Springsteen. Bentall steps out onto the stage in jeans, a classy black vest and a loosely assembled purple tie, and proves beyond a doubt by playing hit after show stopping hit for close to two hours straight that he and his band have earned their ‘working class’ creds through a good deal of hard work and loads of exceptional talent.

Three among the many impressive songs the band performs stand out in my mind. Try not to sing along with the crescendo power chord combinations of the voice-over, call-out, crash and bang percussion craze, whisper-lust build-up to an a cappella climax known as “Do Ya.” Try not to dance along. Try not to relate to the innate longing that wells up from the sweet spot of a bass line opening accentuating that power ballad whose sizzling electric leads blister “Something to Live For” into the bright blaze that it is. You might as well try and crawl up the “Belly of the Sun,” because you’ll end up crying, “I’m Shattered.”

Few bands have been together as long as Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts. They are so tight, that when they put their signature-sizzling-rock-and-roll-‘til-you-drop-stamp of a performance onto the old-school Tennessee Ernie Ford classic “Sixteen Tons,” let me tell you friends, the rhythmic sound of their version of this coal miner ballad could squeeze into the tight spot between Rock and even the hardest of hard rock miners.

Now I know why these Hearts are so legendary. Don’t even think about missing a chance to see Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts in concert. You’re sure to regret it if you do.

© 2013 Roger Wayne Eberle