Bluesfest ends on a high note

Jimmy Cliff
photo by Ming Wu

by David Barrett

The big attraction for me on Ottawa Bluesfest's final day was seeing 62 year old Jimmy Cliff, perennial reggae legend and arguably the last of a dying breed. I was a little apprehensive, knowing that his age might be a factor in the energy level of the show– his songs, as you know, are infused with a power and driving force that wouldn't necessarily play out well without a fair bit of confidence and drive in their delivery–however any doubts vanished quickly as his voice and energy belied his years from the outset. With a large and fantastic backing band, Jimmy danced, bellowed, and worked the audience as well as anyone I saw at the festival. The crowd happily sang along on all the hits and swayed & boogied the night away. I thought there was a nice balance of hits with newer songs, including one political one about Afghanistan (which he said/sang that he hoped wouldn't turn into another Vietnam- convenient that they rhyme I suppose). I thought Many Rivers to Cross was a particularly good vehicle to show that Jimmy's still got his chops- he nailed every note, low and high. He really did look genuinely pleased to be entertaining people and the crowd fed off his enthusiasm.

Rivers Cuomo - Weezer 
photo by Ming Wu
Subsequently Weezer played the main stage and a large crowd of 20- and 30- somethings packed the area in front of the stage. Great way to close out the festival as Weezer ended things with a bang. I don't know the band too well but was struck by the number of "party" songs- Hash Pipe, Dope Nose, Trippin' Down the Freeway, etc; Aren't these the nerdy band-room guys in argyle that sang about sweaters and have a video set in Arnold's Drive-In? In any case, I thought they played a great, lively set— lively with Rivers Cuomo, amongst other things, throwing garbage out into the audience, dribbling a big red ball (poorly) and engaging the audience really well (big swells in cheering at almost every song's opening notes). Nestling covers here and there throughout the show is a pretty good indicator that they know how to please the masses.

Epic Intro

Hash Pipe


Undone (The Sweater Song)

Surf Wax America

Trippin' Down the Freeway

Keep Fishin'

Perfect Situation

Dope Nose

Say It Ain't So

Island In the Sun

Four Horsemen

Can't Stop Partying

El Scorcho

My Name is Jonas

Beverly Hills



Hot for Teacher

Pork and Beans

Kids (MGMT cover)

Poker Face (Lady Gaga cover)


Encore 2:

(If You're Wondering I Want You To) I Want You To

Buddy Holly

Fare you well, Bluesfest, til next year.