Campbell River’s favourite blues rocker, Jesse Roper, came to the Tidemark Theatre again last week – but this time he brought his band with him.
He also brought his friend Vince Vaccaro to open the show with a set of his own.
While Vaccaro may not be a household name, he’s certainly found a level of success, having shared the stage with the likes of Mumford & Sons, Sam Roberts, City & Colour, Bedouin Soundclash and many other notable acts.
And for good reason.
Vaccaro reminded me of the first time I saw Roper, in fact. He wandered out on stage alone with an unassuming confidence and proceeded to knock the wind out of the audience with just a single six-string guitar and a bass drum driven by his right foot.
As the first verse of the first song ended, I already knew he was the perfect act to open a Roper show. Vaccaro has a powerful, dynamic, gripping voice, strong, driving guitar lines – much like Roper, but with less of a blues-y infusion – and a personality that brings an audience along with him as he works his way through a set.
He quickly showed he’s not a one-trick pony, either. Once I had determined I was already a fan, he quickly moved to another style that made me like him even more. He went from reminding me of Dallas Green to Bruce Springsteen within seconds, which is no easy task.
And just as I thought, “there was definitely some Boss in that last one,” he announced that he was going to do a cover, “because I think it’s important to pay tribute to your influences,” he said, and launched into No Surrender, from Springsteen’s 1984 album, Born in the U.S.A. – one of the seemingly few songs on the album that never made it into a single – and did it beautifully.
After a short intermission, it was Roper’s turn.
This was my first time seeing Roper with his full band behind him, and I didn’t know what to expect.
But the enigmatic and charismatic musician once again proceeded to burn the place down with his intoxicating energy and enthusiasm – not that I had any doubt.
Unlike Roper’s solo shows, however, this one felt more like a jam session than a concert – in a good way. Instead of driving through his songs, moving from one to the next, a Roper show with his band is more like a chance for good friends to play with each other and explore the music from within, while bringing the audience along. Most songs had a keyboard solo – planned or impromptu, only they will ever know – a bass solo, a drum solo, a blues-guitar solo, and often more than one within the same song.
Fittingly, the session lasted well into the night. It was well past 11 p.m. by the time the last notes rung out and concert goers headed for the door.
The ones who stuck around in the lobby, however, were soon greeted by a smiling Roper who emerged from backstage just as enthusiastic to chat, sign autographs and take selfies with fans as he was to launch into his set at the beginning of the night, and with an energy that seemed inconsistent with the fact that he’d just blown away an audience for 2.5 hours on stage.
See you again soon, Jesse. You know you’re welcome back anytime.
And you can bring Vince with you.