Review: Hard Core Logo: Live (BFL Theatre)

Hard Core Logo is “a great night of music and theatre” on the Toronto stage

Hard Core Logo has always held a special place in my cultural history; not only was the film by Bruce McDonald my introduction to Canadian film, it was also my introduction to the world of Punk. The names Joe Dick and Billy Tallent are icons in my cultural pantheon and songs like “Who the Hell Do You Think You Are” and “Something’s Gonna Die Tonight” fed my teenaged rebellion, something my previous musical interests (namely Celtic Folk and George Thorogood) didn’t exactly support.

It wasn’t the easiest revelation for me when I realized Hard Core Logo was a fictional band, specifically because it meant I would never get to see them live and scream those songs right back at the band while slam dancing. Thankfully BFL Theatre, working within their mandate to produce socially aware theatre, have brought a close approximation of my childhood dream to reality with their staging of Hard Core Logo: Live to the Dance Cave.

Going into the show I knew this was going to be a tough review; the film version is so ingrained in my mind that I knew I would be fighting every urge to compare the two throughout. Thankfully my guest, Samantha, had never even heard of Hard Core Logo and was a perfect foil for my fanboyish tendencies.

Following the attempted 1996 reunion tour of the 7 years defunct Punk band Hard Core Logo, the play blends video, dramatic performance and live music to tell the story of Joe Dick (Lead Singer), Billy Tallent (Guitar), Pipefitter (Drums) and John (Bass) as they face their personal demons and unresolved issues with each other on the road, traveling across 5 western Canadian cities.

It’s a relatively simple conceit but the raw emotional core of the script, coupled with the lyrical strength of the songs draws the audience into these lives which–although we only see as a snapshot–are nevertheless compelling for how well they’re drawn by the cast.

On the subject of music: Samantha had expressed concern that the show might put too much emphasis on the musical performances, using the plot as merely a thin connecting device to transition from song to song. We were both pleasantly proven wrong on this, and while there’s no doubt the songs are a highlight of the show (performed completely live by the incredibly talented cast with Andrew Fleming’s guitar work a thing to experience), they act as a complement to the drama going on around them, even managing to showcase certain major narrative moments through the subtext of their lyrics and the physicality of the actors.

I’m always a big fan of nontraditional performance spaces and the Dance Cave is a great choice for Hard Core Logo: Live. Not only is it an institution for live music, once again creating that long sought after life HCL experience I wanted, but the limited stage space forced creative blocking and staging, using everything from speaker towers to camcorders and ken dolls to create a sense of space, location and levels. The show is 95 minutes with no intermission, so the choice to bring in chairs for the audience was the right move, but a part of me had hoped for no more seating than was provided by the venue normally, reaffirming that “concert” feeling.

One thing that should be noted is that Hard Core Logo: Live is steeped in western Canadian culture. From the band stopping at Golden (a town on the border of Alberta and BC that is impossible to avoid) to the use of the FFWD logo during an interview in Calgary (their now, sadly defunct, alternative magazine akin to NOW), some folks may not catch them. For instance, Samantha interpreted Golden as the name of a specific diner and I was the only person (being a dirty westerner myself) who caught the FFWD logo. These are minor things that don’t take away from the show, but having these bits of knowledge definitely can strengthen the sense of time and place.

Whether you’re a fan of the book, film or a complete virgin to the greatest Canadian punk band that never existed, Hard Core Logo: Live is a great night of music and theatre, plus there’s a bar serving cold beer throughout the show.

Details

  • Hard Core Logo: Live is playing at the Dance Cave (Lee’s Palace, 529 Bloor St W)
  • Performances run March 9-26th, Tuesday through Sunday
  • Showtimes are 7:30 PM, doors open at 7 PM
  • Tickets are $36
  • Tickets are available online or at the door.

Photo courtesy of the company