Sweeney Todd’s Nick Gilder still loving it

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Highway Star Nick Gilder

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Saturday night’s fireworks will be a fitting backdrop to the evening’s major St. Jean Baptiste Festival concert. Nick Gilder and the Sweeny Todd Group take to the stage of the Morinville Community Cultural Centre June 22 for the second night of high energy festival entertainment. Opening for Gilder and his band are Whiskey Boyz.

Gilder, who entered the music scene with his band Sweeney Todd in the 1970s, has never stopped doing what he loves, playing his music live as it was intended to be played. Though that catalogue of music includes the Sweeney Todd hits Roxy Roller, Hot Child in the City, and Here Comes the Night, Gilder has also had a successful career over the years as a solo singer and songwriter, penning, among others, the 1984 Patti Smythe hit The Warrior.

The singer / songwriter said Morinville can expect an aggressive stage show, one that has its roots in the early days of his career.

“It was a bit different time,” Gilder said of the decade that gave birth to Sweeney Todd. “The live scene was really flourishing. We played in Vancouver initially, and everywhere there was to play. That was sometimes seven nights a week playing all the clubs and all the bars around town, the high schools and universities. And that’s what we did as a cover band in my first band, which became Sweeney Todd.”

The band’s rise from bar band to a giant in Canadian rock started when the band snuck Roxy Roller into their cover set. “I guess it was a fateful night,” Gilder recalls. “People started requesting the song and that sort of acted as a hinge, so to speak, for the rest of a career. Somebody came and saw us and we wound up in the studio recording an album, and the song went to No. 1.”

That song stayed at number one in Vancouver the entire summer of 1976, and was three weeks at No. 1 on the Canadian music charts. Thirty-eight years later, Gilder said he still loves to play Roxy Roller and the band’s other songs. He gets a thrill when the audience sings the songs back at him.

“Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’m still doing it after all these years,” he said. “It’s especially fun to play the hits because traditionally we get people singing along. It’s a blast to hear the voices.”

It’s about the music

For Gilder it really is about the songs and the belief a good song can keep you going a long time. “At the time that we wrote them, I think they were really spawned from the scene,” he said. “They kind of were cultivated within the context of going out and playing, being in a band live, and rehearsing a song and going out and playing it in front of people. Before they were ever recorded, they were played in front of people. They kind of gained something from that. Just the idea of performing a song in front of people; it develops a feeling.”

Gilder and the Sweeney Todd Group will split July between BC and Ontario, returning to Alberta for five more shows this summer and fall. Whether it is the show room of a casino or a summer festival, Gilder still enjoys hitting the stage with a vengeance.

“The thing that maybe surprises some people is that it is a more aggressive show than the records maybe make you think,” Gilder said. “It’s an aggressive rock and roll show, a high-energy rock and roll show. The band is a rocking band.”

It’s that high energy attitude that Gilder said keeps him going, keeps him pumped up whenever summer rolls around and it’s time to hit the road for another tour.

“I’m still really enjoying doing it,” he said, adding that enjoyment is a combination of the sense of camaraderie within the band, meeting new people, and the enthusiasm people still have for the songs. “You’ve heard the expression ‘the soundtrack of my life.’ That’s it. Some people you can see they’re kind of flashing back to a summer they remember that was particularly meaningful. Somehow it’s still very much alive. Those memories are still really fresh.”

Tickets for the Nick Gilder / Sweeney Todd Group show are $35 per person and available at Noah’s Ark Pets and Supplies, the Morinville Community Cultural Centre Box Office or by phone at 780-913-6499.

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    • Sweeney Todd was a 1970s and ’80s glam rock band. Though there is a play by the same name, this is a good old rock and roll show. It is a licensed event and open to those 18 and above.

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