Big Sugar @ Rapids Theater, Niagara Falls, NY 12-6-11

Big Sugar @ Rapids Theater, Niagara Falls, NY 12-6-11

It was just a little over a year ago that Gordie Johnson took Big Sugar out of the mothballs for a few summer dates. Johnson, Big Sugar’s front man, had kept himself busy during the bands seven-year hiatus, producing many artists, including Gov’t Mule and Reel Big Fish and performing with bands like Grady and Wide Mouth Mason. If there was any question as to whether Big Sugar’s 2010s jaunt was a nostalgic trip to the past, the question was answered earlier this year when the band released its first album of new material in ten years and followed it up with a tour, which made a rare stop in “The States” on a Tuesday night.
Johnson did double duty, performing bass with Wide Mouth Mason during the opening set, and then fronting Big Sugar for a two and a half hour set that covered the band’s entire catalogue. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was when Johnson asked the crowd how many came from Canada and only a few hands went into the air. Even though Johnson and company weren’t far over the border, he was playing to an audience of appreciative Americans at The Rapids Theatre, an audience that likely grew up listening to Canadian rock stations whose clear signals shot over Lake Erie into Western New York.
Nonetheless, what makes Big Sugar work is that they aren’t just another Canadian band. Their style is a stew of Texas blues, Jamaican reggae and a little Detroit funk just to name a few. It works and it’s fun to listen to because you never really know where the band is going, you just know that the trip will be worth it.
The twenty plus song set incorporated a healthy dose of songs from “Revolution Per Minute,” including the album’s first single, “Roads Ahead” and the title cut. The songs fit nicely in the set with Big Sugar classics like “Diggin’ a Hole” and “All Hell for a Basement.” The band even played a deep cut for their longtime fans, encoring with “Come Back Baby” from their eponymous debut.
It was a great evening of music from a band that should be on every live music fans bucket list, and I am sure I echo many of their longtime fans sentiment when I say that I hope they don’t go on hiatus again anytime soon.


Work it Now
Digging a Hole
Dear Mr. Fantasy (Traffic Cover)
If I Had my Way/Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Pink Floyd cover)
If Santa Don’t Bring You no Funk I Will
Roads Ahead
Come a Little Closer Now Come
Kicking Stones
Counterfeit Wings (Are Some Jive Ass Wings)
Little Bit a All Right
Better Get Used to It
I’m a Ram/Let Me Roll It(Wings Cover)
It’s All I know
Ride like Hell
Wild OX Moan
Turn the Lights On/Muffy
Party in Session
Turn the Lights On (reprise)
Star Spangled Banner/ O Canada


Come Back Baby
Joe Louis/Revolution per Minute
On the Scene


Photos by J. Ritz

We would like to thank Dave Taylor for allowing to review the show.