At 66, Ian Thomas is a polished and accomplished musician, perhaps best known for his monster 1973 hit Painted Ladies and being the younger brother of actor Dave Thomas (Strange Brew).
The Hamilton native is also quite the comic. He had all 340 audience members laughing in between songs Sunday night at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.
Thomas, using various accents and sound effects, told hilarious stories of a rude female Toronto custom agent, his mother’s hearing issues, getting drunk in first-class on a flight to the U.K. and an elementary school field trip with Mrs. Brown to a cigarette factory in North Carolina.
The anecdotes were all part of Lunch At Allen’s, the name of a band consisting of four ultra-talented Canadian artists with a diverse mix of musical moxie. If you are a baby boomer or slightly younger, you know the work of Thomas, Marc Jordan and Murray McLauchlan. The name Cindy Church may not be as familiar, but the lady can sing.
Thomas described the band as a “walking, talking museum exhibit” as the foursome took the stage promptly at 7:30 p.m. for an intimate and mellow two-hour-and-15-minute show. The men were casually dressed in jeans and took turns on the grand piano while playing their hits.
Church, who rides with McLauchlan when they tour, is the kid of the group at 59. She is pitch-perfect and nicely harmonized with the men while adding a touch of percussion from the back of a tamborine on her lap.
For the record, the band’s name comes from the fact that the three men used to meet for lunch at Allen’s restaurant on Danforth Avenue in Toronto. McLauchlan, who had not played professionally in a while at the time of the band’s formation 15 years ago, was inspired to jumpstart the group after being diagnosed with a heart issue requiring quadruple-bypass heart surgery. He turns 70 on June 30.
McLauchlan looked healthy and happy on Father’s Day, drawing big applause for his upbeat single Farmer’s Song and later a tender rendition of Whispering Rain at the keyboards.
“It’s good to be a tribute band to yourself,” joked McLauchlan, who took some ribbing from Thomas as he struggled tuning his guitar early in the set.
“Gibson Guitars are pleased to announce that Murray McLauchlan is playing a Yamaha,” deadpanned Thomas.
The soft-spoken Jordan, who was born in Brooklyn and has written ditties for the likes of Santana, Diana Ross, Chicago, Bette Midler and Cher, performed a unique rendition of Rhythm of My Heart at the piano, a song he tweaked multiple times for Rod Stewart.
Married to Canadian recording artist Amy Sky, Jordan, 69, has a wild set of hair and wears funky glasses. He has been mistaken for novelist/poet Margaret Atwood.
“People think I’m Margaret Atwood,” smiled Jordan. “As a Canadian, you take what you can get. I’ve made a fortune selling her books.”
Lunch At Allen’s has produced four albums and two singles. Their B.C. tour also stops in Kelowna, Kamloops, Chilliwack, Duncan and West Vancouver before they break until the fall.