It was billed as a swillfest—the
first concert in the Summer of Debauchery series. While last week’s
Mac Ewan Hall Ballroom appearance by the Reverend Horton Heat may not
have been quite as debauched as expected, it was nothing short of a miraculous
The Reverend (real name: Jim Heath) brought his travelling psychobilly/snake
oil show to Calgary for the first time in a few years, but found himself
preaching to the converted.
With the possible exception of a few audience members who may have been
present for a big-ticket, opening-act by local boys Huevos Rancheros,
most who entered the Reverend’s shrine knew what to expect. Because
the Reverend and his bandmates Jimbo Wallace and Scott “Chernobyl”
Churilla are touring in support of a greatest hits compilation (Holy Roller),
everyone knew they would be treated to a set full of the bands best songs.
I need not report that few left disappointed.
Even such songs as “Bath-Water Blues,” which sound slightly
bland on the cd became exciting when heard live.
The Reverend himself appeared in a well-fitted black suit with red flames
on its sleeves and cuffs. Jimbo opted for less eye-catching attire, but
his bass (a stylish upright) was decorated with painted hellfire.
As for the reputed debauchery, it was lacking, but that was alright. The
Reverend, while irreverent, is not quite as twisted as he’d like
you to believe. The lyrics are occasionally off-kilter, and rockabilly
musicians (from the ‘50s) that the band emulates might be a little
offended, but there is little to be concerned about, save those who think
that the Reverend and his sidekicks believe the brimstone they preaching.
The evenings most exciting moment probably came during Huevos Rancheros’
set. Their bassist was called off stage and replaced by a backup when
he received a call that his wife had given birth. For an opening act,
the Eggs were surprisingly well-received.
Huevos Rancheros have a lot going for them in front of a Calgary audience.
It helps that they’re local, and one of Canada’s best-known
instrumental rock acts. The Reverend Horton Heat praised his opening act
a number of times during his own set, to the agreeing cheers of the listeners.
The two trios made quite a pair.