Every once in a while at Rocktographers, it’s nice to take a break from the rock scene and dive into something completely different. That’s where the legendary family entertainer Fred Penner comes in.
Fred Penner has been a staple of the Canadian music scene for the better part of the last three decades, inspiring generations of children with his upbeat and catchy songs. His songs were some of the first many Canadian children learned growing up and, without a doubt, is the why they are seeing so many great Canadian musicians these days.
When Atomique Productions first announced that they were bringing Fred Penner to Alix Goolden Hall for a concert, I knew I had to be there to relive big part of my childhood and share it with my five-year-old nephew.
From the moment Mr. Penner arrived, there were little ones dancing in the aisles and in front of the stage. A security guard joked to me earlier that he forgot his shin guards in case this crowd got too rowdy.
The night was filled with singalongs. Generations of fans sang with Fred to “Sandwiches,” “Happy Feet,” “Saskatoon Berry Pie,” and “Puff The Magic Dragon.” At one point, Paul, his supporting guitarist, started to play “Stairway to Heaven,” but Fred quickly shut down the parents who singing to that song with a “don’t embarrass yourself in front of your children” comment.
While Fred Penner is certainly a very good singer-songwriter, his true gift (in my opinion) is how he deals with his fans. Most of the vocal ones are under the age of ten. Taking a break between songs to interact with the kids that have piled up on the floor at stage edge, one little girl said he was “playing too loud.” So he agreed to sing quieter for her.
One of these moments which brought clear joy to my heart was when he answered a question from my nephew about why the kids weren’t allowed on the stage while he was playing. He patiently explained that it would be dangerous for the children up there and that he didn’t want to see anyone get hurt. Satisfied with the answer, my nephew was offered a high five by Mr. Penner, which was gladly accepted.
The evening was also peppered with a good dose of both original and classic Christmas tunes, but the real standout was possibly Fred’s most famous song. Of course, I’m talking about “The Cat Came Back.” It was fantastic to see the song again live years later. Especially with the mashup of K-OS’s “Crabbuckit” and The Turtles’ classic “Happy Together.”
My only regret was after the show when I met Mr. Penner is that I forgot to ask him how his tenants, The Plateaus, were doing.
Through and through, this was probably one of the most enjoyable concerts that I’ve had the privilege of seeing this year in Victoria, BC. Not only did I get to relive parts of my childhood, but got to share it with my nephew, hopefully inspiring to love and make music a big part of his life.
Much like “the cat,” I hope Fred Penner comes back, again and again.