Recording: Art Bergmann
Artist: Art Bergmann
Songs: My Empty House + Drones of Democracy
Recorded at Sneaky Dee's ("Wavelength FIFTEEN - Night 1"), February 13, 2015.
Even after half-a-dozen short sets, the night was only halfway over. Celebrating the past in a different way, Can-rock icon Art Bergmann made his Wavelength début. Ever since forming the K-Tels in 1978, Bergmann has been a voice in the wilderness and a cog in the machine, trying to slip his raw testimonials into the prevailing discourse. Fighting health troubles and a depleted muse, Bergmann has been living in Alberta for the past decade, mostly off the radar (save for an occasional special appearance), and it was a pleasant surprise last year to hear of his return with a new EP. The four tunes on Songs For the Underclass are as pointed as the disc's title in their last-chance lamentations for a world gone wrong.
Whether all that would be appreciated by the large segment of the crowd that looked too young to remember his cultural presence looked uncertain. "Yeah, we're covering something named Art," Bergmann off-handedly muttered near the start of his set, picking up on the vibe. That double joke sailed over the audience's heads, and Bergmann seemed a little disappointed at these modern audiences that don't boisterously rise to the occasion, or even heckle more than half-heartedly.
He was definitely not disappointed with his "Toronto band", who were in fine form. Powered by Chris Wardman on guitar, Bergman was soon swapping grins as the band powered through his back catalogue. There's an embarrassment of riches in his songbook, and it was a thrill to hear high-powered versions of "Remember Her Name", "Beatles in Hollywood", "Bound For Vegas", "Contract" and more. "Drones of Democracy", the first track from the new one provided the set's climax, a sweeping song that owes more than a little something to the slow-burning lament of Neil Young's "Cortez The Killer."
Some of that goodness was definitely lost on the crowd, who started to drift away as the set wore on. After the short, sharp bursts of the cover sets, the hour-and-a-quarter here felt a little long in the context of the night, and too much perhaps to engage the casually interested. But I was glad to have seen Bergmann put on an impressive show that maintained its power and focus throughout.