By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – It was big hair and bigger tunes Friday night as ‘80s weekend opened at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre with Doug and the Slugs, the fourth of five St. Jean Baptiste Festival concerts.
Thirty-four years after the band formed, the new wave / pop rock group is made up of original band members Richard Baker, Wally Watson, John Burton and Simon Kendall as well as frontman Ted Okos who replaces original frontman and namesake Doug Bennett.
Bennett died in 2004 after a performance in Saskatchewan, putting a five year gap in the story of Doug and the Slugs. But for the majority of the current incarnation, that absence had been much longer. All of the original band members save keyboardist Kendall left the band in 1992, Kendall himself two years later.
But for the packed house at the Cultural Centre Friday night, it was like it was the ‘80s all over again as the Slugs and Okos pleased crowds with their unique style through Doug and the Slugs favourites, including Too Bad, Making it Work and Day by Day. Okos, who described himself as a cross between Meatloaf and Benny Hill in appearance, managed to replicate Bennett’s vocals to make it seem like Bennett was there.
Opening for Doug and the Slugs were local band The Whiskey Boys, a band who belted out some equally well-known songs, including Jessie’s Girl, Cecilia, Saturday Night and a variety of others welcomed by the largely middle-aged audience. With each successive number, the Whisky Boys got concert goers on their feet and ready for the headlining act.
With an audience ready to rock, the Slugs had no problem returning their Morinville crowd to an era when their upbeat style was fresh and new.
Those sounds remained fresh and new despite having weathered three-and-a-half decades of travel and years of being played by an ever-changing stable of musicians who performed with Bennett during his band’s absence. Back in the hands of the original mix and fronted by Okos, those sounds seemed as fresh as the day they were first played.
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The Doug and the Slugs concert was presented by Art of Conversation Morinville and sponsored by Sturgeon County and MorinvilleNews.com.
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