The last few S’Aints Sleighing Hunger concerts have started out with a band member being put on the holiday hot seat as Santa decides whether they have been naughty or nice in a special video message. This year it was Kelly Hoppe and ultimately Santa told him, “you made it onto my nice list, my elves and I are very proud of you.”
If Kelly and the rest of The S’Aints band members, along with community partners Caesars Windsor Cares and St. Clair College, were on the naughty list surely a riot would have ensued. After all, they’ve all been working hard on this annual holiday tradition, this being the 9th one, here in Windsor. But most importantly they bring the entire community together, donating their time for a spectacular holiday concert, and all in support of helping those in need in our community. In fact, this year a record breaking $75,267 was raised and will help 16 area food banks (the 15 members of the Windsor Essex Food Bank Association and Chatham’s Outreach For Hunger) put healthy food items on their shelves (something rare in food banks).
The talented local philanthropic group entertained a nearly sold out Colosseum at Caesars Windsor with covers of several favourite holiday songs including classics and some from the likes of John Lennon and Mariah Carey. Mixed in The S’Aints performed covers of some of the best “feel good” rock songs from artists such as U2, Led Zeppelin, Temple of The Dog, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Mike + The Mechanics, and Jody Raffoul. Raffoul along with Jeff Burrows are founding members of the band, and “Love Is The Answer” off of Raffoul’s 2008 Big Sky Album (and on The S’Aints 2018 Love Is The Answer Album) was performed as part of the 2019 concert. Local and world-renowned talents rounding out the band include Wes Buckley, Kelly “Mr. Chill” Hoppe, David Cyrenne, Kelly Authier (Kay Oh Chay), Marty Bak, and the Twisted Sisters (Liz Robinson and Stephanie Baker).
The band records a holiday album each year at SLR Studios, operated by band member Martin Bak. This year’s holiday album, “Strike Hunger”, like many of the past albums only contain a few holiday songs with the rest being a fantastic mix of mainly renowned rock tunes. The band’s setlist reflects this mix when they perform on stage, and judging from the crowd response it seems to work fabulously.
The band invites special guests to join them on stage throughout the show, part of what makes the annual concert a true community event. Returning this year were the Horns of Dilemma and The Sinners Choir. Many of the songs The S’Aints choose for their albums and sets cleverly include sections with horns and choirs or can be changed up to include them. Of course, this also leaves room for talented Canadian rock legend Kelly Hoppe to thrill the crowd with his wicked horn and harp playing skills. And indeed, Santa’s Nice List S’Aint, decked out in silver hair and a Rudolph red shirt, used everything from his harmonica and saxophone to his vocals to fill The Colosseum with the soulful sounds that are unmistakably those of “Mr. Chill”.
Towards the end of the concert The S’Aints, Horns of Dilemma, and Sinners Choir performed one of the most iconic rock songs every written, one that everyone can identify with, one that the audience sang along to, one written by the legendary Rolling Stones. An incredible S’Aints flavoured rendition of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” complete with the towering vocals of the choir was a marvelous experience for all in attendance.
Another highlight of the show included the choir, led by the powerful vocals of Kelly Authier, performing a festive cover of Mariah Carey’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
As Jody Raffoul explained, the band was trying something a little different this year by inviting highschool students from the Walkerville Centre For The Creative Arts’ strings band to join them. Performing centre stage right behind Raffoul, with his soulful rock vocals, the group of young musicians could easily be re-named the “Rockstar Strings” as they audience was treated to a somber cover of Led Zeppelin’s ballad, “The Rain Song.” It took the students a few minutes to set up and Raffoul joked that they might want to hire some roadies.
Family coming together is part of what defines Christmas and the holidays. A couple of very special guests joining the band this year, another highlight of the show, were the talented sons of Jeff Burrows and Jody Raffoul. The wildly talented Billy Raffoul and Nicholas Burrows, both successfully establishing themselves in the music industry, joined The S’Aints to perform an awesome cover of Temple of The Dog’s “Hunger Strike”. A most fitting song for a concert that is all about raising money to feed the hungry in our community.
Jody Raffoul’s hypnotizing deep vocals led the majority of songs performed, opening with U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name,” and “Angel of Harlem.” Of course, “Lady S’Aint” Kelly Authier’s vocals and piano playing are simply spellbinding no matter how many years in a row you see her perform with The S’Aints. Early on this was established as she took the spotlight for a wonderful cover of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.”
While Jody Raffoul and Kelly Authier’s magical vocals were a highlight of the whole concert, Wes Buckley killed it with his deep rich vocals and guitar strumming as the spotlight shone on him covering “Blue Christmas.”
The other “Lady S’Aints,” Liz Robinson and Stephanie Baker, aka The Twisted Sisters brought their friendly smiles and melodic voices as the band’s backup vocals for the fifth year in a row. The pair deserve to be brought centre stage and have the spotlight shine on them as highlight performers for at least one song in future editions of the annual Sleighing Hunger Concert.
Another smiling face in the background was none other than talented mix master Martin Bak. Each year he seems to be enjoying his place on stage more and more.
Then there was the talented David Cyrenne on bass, normally he’s working audio from the soundboard for shows at The Colosseum. Each year as part of the S’Aints he rocks it on stage and clearly loves it. David thrilled the crowd when he played the Double Bass as the band performed a fabulous, choir filled, rendition of Mike + The Mechanics’ “In The Living Years.”
The drummer in the back, the heart-beat of the band bringing cohesion to not only the music but being heavily involved in organizing the concert was none other than Jeff Burrows. The internationally renowned drummer of Canadian rock band, the Tea Party is always making time to give back to his hometown through his well known philanthropic efforts and projects.
The concert closed with Billy Raffoul and Nick Burrows returning for the final song of the show. They were joined by more of Jody’s children including his two youngest and his oldest, another music industry success, none other than Peter Raffoul. Everyone on stage and in the audience joined in singing a cover of John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas.” Confetti cannons fired off, a smiling Burrows thanked the community for coming out and supporting the event, and the band took their final bow in front of a cheering crowd.
Next year, Dec. 2020, will mark the 10th Anniversary of The S’Aints Sleighing Hunger Concert and we predict something extra special might be in the works.
For more information visit https://www.sleighinghunger.com
For upcoming shows inside The Colosseum at Caesars Windsor visit https://www.caesars.com/caesars-windsor/shows