Ottawa Event Review: Classified – The Retrospective Tour

This week, I was back at Algonquin Commons after nearly a three year absence! I had missed this lovely theatre, and was reminded of how much I appreciate the quality of shows that can go on there; it provides such an intimate setting. I have seen at least thirty different shows there over the years, but only one since the pandemic hit in 2020. Until last night.

Algonquin Commons Theatre is located at the back of Algonquin College. The theatre can seat roughly 700 people; it can accommodate either full seating or general admission, and has a great balcony overlooking the stage. The acoustics in the theatre are amazing, and the sound and light equipment seem to be top notch, making every show look and sound incredible. I’ve never been disappointed in any show there, and last night was no different.

For those of you who have never attended a show at the theatre and are curious about the process, here’s a little info for you: Parking is $5 in the lot right in front of the theatre, located at the back of the college. Admission starts about an hour before the show begins; you can enter and enjoy a drink at the bar while waiting for the doors to open, typically 30 minutes prior to the show. There are a variety of beverages offered in the lounge area at reasonable prices, and the bar often features some great local craft breweries.

Classified was back in town, but this week, he put on a different show than one might normally expect of him. The tour is called “The Retrospective Tour,” and it is an acoustic concert featuring newly-released (acoustic) versions of some of his classics, along with some new songs. Having seen Classified live many times, I’ve become accustomed to his musical and performance style, but last night was something new and exciting! He really worked the ‘retrospective’ aspect of the concert. The setting was relaxed, with couches and soft, ambient lighting. Around his neck, he was wearing a cassette: his first release from 1995, which really complimented the retro vibe.

“I’m so excited to finally bring this new style of show to the stage. I’ve been releasing acoustic versions of songs for a while now and performing them on stage is a whole lot different than what my show for the last 20 years has been. This show feels so much more personal and intimate and lets the audience get the stories behind the songs and hear some of the songs you know in a way no one’s ever got to hear before. Can’t wait to get back out there and experience it with you all!” – Classified

Opening for Classified was the incredibly talented Reeny Smith. I was not familiar with Reeny, but her beautiful, soulful sound had the audience enamored and hanging onto every word and note. She really set the mood, creating a perfect, intimate ambience for this concert. Reeny was only on stage for 30-40 minutes, but her set was just what was needed to get the audience warmed up for Classified.

Luke Boyd (aka Classified) entered the stage area quietly strolling, which felt quite subtle compared to previous shows, when he would spring out energetically to get the audience pumped right away. The minimal setting on the stage made for a cool, comfortable vibe. Throughout the show, there was a significant amount of audience interaction, only be possible in a setting like this one. As expected, Classified played a mix of old and new songs, starting his set with crowd favourite, “3 Foot Tall”.

The crowd was enthralled throughout the entire show, regardless of whether he was doing a song or chatting in between. He really played up the intimate vibe in the room, and the audience loved it! He told stories from his career and talked about the influences for many of his songs.

There were several people in the crowd shouting out random cheers, with some being invited on stage. The first, I think his name was Johnnie, sported an incredible mullet and looks as though he was straight out of Wayne’s World. The haircut did NOT go unnoticed by Boyd, who jokingly poked fun at the iconic, yet questionable hairstyle. It was pretty funny.

At one point in the concert, I found myself incredibly moved by one of Boyd’s songs. He released a song called “Powerless” which was about a sexual assault in Newfoundland that he read about in the news. I hadn’t heard this song prior to last night, but wow, it is powerful. It begins with the sexual assault of a young girl (whose mother doesn’t believe her), and leads into the ongoing crisis of missing indigenous women across Canada. I highly recommend listening to this song. I’m attaching the video for the original release here, however I truly feel that the acoustic version really compounded the emotional impact. The audience was silent through the whole song.

In an effort to lighten the mood, soon after Boyd played a game with the crowd, trying to identify the ages of the audience. He played clips of hip hop songs from different years to find out who knew which songs, which, in theory, would determine their age. I knew each song except for two in the middle, so I must have taken a few years off from music in the early 2000s. I did well from 1992’s “OPP” by Naughty By Nature, right through to 2016’s “Bitch don’t Kill my Vibe” by Kendrick Lamar.

I’ve never seen this level of interaction and chatting with the audience in a large-venue concert. It was such an amazing experience, and even if you don’t like his style of music, anyone would appreciate how fun this concert was! It wasn’t just enjoying the music; it was living an experience.

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