It was odd to overhear someone in the crowd say “What are these guys called?” during Cuff the Duke’s set. They were, after all, the headliners on Saturday, October 6 at the Exchange. You can put that one on Left English, I imagine. The local four-piece that opened the show have a good-sized following that will follow them anywhere they go.
Their fans were lucky enough to follow them to a Cuff the Duke show. (The first hint for the name, by the by, should’ve been that the Oshawa band had their name written on their kick drum, although it was pretty small so I’m not blaming anyone.)
It amazes me somewhat these days that Cuff the Duke have such a catalog to pull from. Part of me still imagines them as the relative upstarts they were when they put out their self-titled record in 2005. You only have to look at the band to see that’s not the case, though. I was there with a friend on Saturday who hadn’t kept up with the member changes and didn’t know that singer/guitarist Wayne Petti and bassist Paul Lowman were the only two original members to stick around.
That doesn’t matter so much, though. That fact might be why their live set is a little heavy on their last four albums or so, plucking about a single song each from their first three if my foggy memory is any good at all. But it all sounds like Cuff the Duke. Record to record, they’ve always tweaked their sound, but Petti voice stays the same and they always stay a couple steps off from the twangy side of alt-country.
Songs off Union were a bit of a different matter. Cuff’s always been great at bringing studio versions to life at live shows and I’d extend that to “Live My Life”, the first track off the album they released just last week. Other songs from Union, however, had more of a rock feeling live, more so than I’ve heard them indulge before. Still, it all fit in with the good mix of a Cuff the Duke show.
The one weird moment during the set came near the start of “Letting Go”, the last song on Morning Comes. (Probably my favourite off the album, too.) A woman wandered up to the stage, looking like she was going to examine one of their Lite-Brite-esque stage decorations. In short order, she collapsed to the ground. Petti stopped the band until it seemed clear the woman was in no serious danger. As someone helped the woman off to a chair — along with a water bottle provided by Petti — Petti told the crowd they should drink beer, but also drink some water, too. Never bad advice.