Steven Page at the SAERC auditorium on January 16

Steven Page

PORT HAWKESBURY: A memorable voice in Canadian music will be returning to the Strait area next month as part of a Canadian tour.

Former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page will visit the SAERC auditorium on January 16 in the midst of a Canada-wide tour that is taking him from British Columbia to Cape Breton.

Page was recently inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame with the Barenaked Ladies.

Last summer, Page was one of the featured acts in the Granville Green Outdoor Concert Series in Port Hawkesbury, but this time, the show will be slightly different.

“That was a great show, a fun one,” Page recalled of last summer’s gig. “This time I get to bring the full trio, it was just two of us last time.”

The tour is in support of his new album Discipline, which is Page’s fifth solo album and a follow-up to 2016’s Heal Thyself, Pt. I: Instinct.

“The album came out last year and we’ve been on the road supporting this record since it came out,” Page told The Reporter. “It’s been kind of a non-stop tour and now kind of wrapping things up in January and February.”

Discipline funnels Page’s love of 1970s and 1980s soul and R&B through the heavy pop prism of David Byrne, and he relives some of music’s great moments and movements – like the music that came out of the UK from The Clash. The album bounces from Stax-styled horns, to punk aggression, then over to Zombie-esque pop, and finally to Steely Dan slickness.

The album is also unapologetically political, like Page.

“Even in Barenaked Ladies, our politics were definitely on our sleeve in our music but that doesn’t mean that’s all your music is about,” Page noted. “Music is about your heart and soul, and what you believe in, and sometimes it can be a political thing, it can be when you see injustice in the world, or injustice on people around you, or it’s about the heart break you feel from other parts of your life, or the joy you feel from where you’re at.”

As someone who is committed to the principles of social justice, Page takes umbrage with recent vilification of the term. He also expressed horror at recent events like the Presidency of Donald Trump and the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia in the summer of 2018.

“It’s so funny how the phrase social justice has changed its weight in the last bunch of years,” Page remarked. “I grew up believing that social justice was all about everybody getting a fair shake, everybody being treated with respect, and now it seems to polarize you if you use that word, which shocks me.”

Page is a Canadian citizen who has lived in Upstate New York more than five years, but was unable to vote in either country until October’s Canadian election.

“It’s terrifying, honestly,” Page says of Trump’s presidency. “I hope it’s a one-term presidency but I can’t do much more beyond that. It’s a weird thing, I pay my taxes in both countries and still can’t participate in the democracy down here.”

Discipline swings from the super political to the super personal, taking on everything from the AIDS crisis, to politically conscious pomposity, to dubious parental advice. Page’s razor-sharp wit, dark humour and gift for melody remain ever-present as he deploys comic relief, ninja-like hooks and a killer horn section.

Although he promised a mix of new material, along with favourites like “Brian Wilson,” “Old Apartment” and “What a Good Boy,” Page added that the audience in Port Hawkesbury can expect a different performer from the front man of one of Canada’s most popular bands.

“I’m in a happy place in my life so I think maybe you get shows that are really, not just fun for the audience, but fun for the three of us onstage,” Page added. “We really love playing with each other. By the time you see us in Port Hawkesbury, we’ll have missed each other for at least a month-and-a-half so we’ll be very excited to play together again.

“It’s a really fun, entertaining show.”