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Rik Emmett sang and played like he was still in his prime.
Maybe you know who Emmet is, maybe you don’t. But there's a very good chance you know some of his tunes.
As guitarist, lead vocalist and primary songwriter through the 70s and 80s for Canadian powerhouse rock trio Triumph, he was one of the strongest triple threats on the scene.
His list of memorable songs is impressive. Magic Power, Hold On, and his pinnacle, 1979's Lay It On The Line, a ditty about honesty that did big numbers at the time but arguably even bigger since. Its official video has racked up 31 million views on YouTube to date.
Today Emmett is 70 years old. But he looks great. And he sounds exceptional.
Saturday night he played for an up close and personal crowd in the flashy East Ballroom at the Lakeside Resort. And when he searched for those unforgettable high notes in Lay In On The Line, he found them. His guitar work, always a strong suit, was just as mighty.
But there was far more to the night than a song list.
It was the final show of three in the 2023 edition of 97 South Song Sessions, a unique concept where celebrated songwriters get together in front of purposely intimate crowds to spin a few yarns, share a few laughs and sing a few of their hits.
Emmett, for example, chatted about the spandex jumpsuits that were one of his live performance staples back in the '80s. He talked about the "disco" guitar lines he stuck into Lay it on the Line. He was self-deprecating, he was interesting, and he was funny.
And the crowd, most of whom sat just meters from him, ate it up.
Emmett's was the headline show. In Friday night's "Spotlight on Nashville" opener at the Trade and Convention Centre, folks like Lee Thomas Miller (seven #1 hits), multiple award winner Jamie O'Neal and Canadian country music icon Paul Brandt delivered a captivating "in the round" performance at the Trade and Convention Centre.
Saturday at noon, the "Discovery Series," spotlighting up and coming Canadian singer-songwriters and featuring talented young artists such as Cole Bradley and Teigen Gayse played out at the Lakeshore East Ballroom.
The quality of sound throughout was impeccable. As was the quality of the stories and the banter.
Event director and co-founder Robert Ott, a music industry ace who at one time ran BMG Music Publishing Canada and then founded independent music publishing giant "ole," among other exploits, explained the thoughts behind 97 South Song Sessions.
"During my time at the company," he said, "we also had an office in Nashville and I got to witness this amazing art form called the 'guitar pull,' where you get a circle of songwriters, and a person would play a song and then take a pull from a whiskey jug. They kept doing that 'til they fell off their chairs.
"These songwriter circles are an art form in Nashville. They’re equal parts storytelling and music. The songs you know came from somewhere, and you get to hear it from the horse's mouth as it were. We wanted to import that to the Okanagan Valley."
Mission accomplished. The event is now in its fifth year.
"The comment I always get is that the show really moved them," added Ott. "And I just think that's what it's all about."
It's also a great format for those who've lived quite a few decades but still appreciate the experience of high-grade live music. The volume is palatable, the audio quality high and the chit-chat engrossing.
For more info on 97 South Song Sessions, which will come around again in the summer of 2024, head here.