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Triumph’s Mike Levine on surprise band reunion: ‘They went out of their minds’

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Iconic Canadian hard rock power trio Triumph shocked hundreds of the band’s biggest fans a few weeks ago when they took the stage for a surprise three-song set during an invitation-only fan event in Toronto which was filmed for a band documentary due later this year. It was the group’s first live performance in more than a decade.

Known for virtuosic musicianship which produced a unique hybrid of progressive rock, hard rock, pop and classical music, Triumph formed in Toronto in 1975 and first saw success at home before breaking through in America in the late ‘70s.

The band’s hits – including “Hold On,” “Somebody’s Out There,” “Lay It On The Line” and “Magic Power” – and their albums, including “Just a Game,” “Allied Forces” and “Never Surrender,” have collectively earned 19 gold and platinum record awards in the U.S. and Canada for Triumph.

Rik Emmett departed Triumph for a solo career in 1988 and was briefly replaced by Phil “X” Xenedis (also Richie Sambora’s replacement in Bon Jovi) before the band went on indefinite hiatus in 1993.

Triumph regrouped briefly for a reunion show in Sweden in 2008 and another that same year at the annual “Rocklahoma” festival held in Pryor, Oklahoma. 

Bassist and keyboardist Mike Levine says that he, guitarist and lead singer Rik Emmett and drummer Gil Moore, had a blast playing together for the first time in more than a decade at the Toronto fan event last November.

“We played a few songs and really enjoyed the experience. The fan reaction blew us away,” Levine told The Maine Edge of the 300 or so Triumph superfans invited to the event, which was filmed for “Lay It On The Line,” the upcoming Triumph documentary being produced by Banger Films. The company has produced documentaries on Rush, ZZ Top, Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden, among other bands.

“We hope they’re doing a good job with it, but we won’t get to see it until it’s almost finished,” Levine said, after which each band member will give their input. “They put on this fan event and I’m glad we did it.”

The trio surprised attendees by playing fan favorites “When the Lights Go Down,” “Lay It On the Line” and “Magic Power,” marking the first Triumph performance from the classic three-piece lineup in 31 years.

“The fans didn’t expect us to play, so they went out of their minds when we started,” Levine said of the fan reaction. Of the reunion, Guitarist Rik Emmett joked with hard rock news site Blabbermouth.net, “I think we’re going to try to do it every 11 years or so.”

Coinciding with the mid-November Triumph fan event was the re-release of Triumph’s “Classics,” a double album compilation of the band’s best-loved songs, freshly remastered from the original analog tapes.

The new set, pressed on 180gram silver vinyl, adds two live cuts to the “Classics” lineup – “Never Surrender,” from the 1983 US Festival and “Blinding Light Show/Moon Child” from the 2008 Sweden Rock Festival.

Levine says much care was taken with the new set to ensure maximum fidelity.

“I think we captured everything from the original tapes,” he said of the freshly remastered package. “It has the right number of minutes per side for best fidelity and the packaging is great too. Remastering has come a long way since this album was released three decades ago.”

Levine says he gets a kick out of hearing stories about people just discovering the warmth and fidelity offered by the vinyl listening experience.

“It’s pretty cool that so many people are getting into vinyl,” he said. “I still love dropping the needle on a new record. This new version of “Classics” has all of the warmth, body, and feel that is lacking in a lot of music being consumed these days. There is nothing like the sound of vinyl when it’s done right.”

When it was time to dig out the original master tapes for each song on the “Classics” reissue, the band knew where to look. In 2011, Triumph donated their entire archive of recordings, photographs, films, videos, and documents to the University of Toronto for permanent preservation. The contents filled a 30-foot trailer truck.

Triumph has long been known for being one of rock’s most charitable bands. The group has donated millions of dollars to charities big and small which are close to the band member’s hearts. The donation of their archive was a good move, says Levine, not only for students and historians, but for the band itself.

“We had all of our stuff stored in a warehouse, which is not ideal,” Levine explained. “Our tapes were becoming soft and the newspaper stories were yellowing. Now it’s all preserved in a climate-controlled environment where any student who wants to review the history of Triumph can pull stuff out, look up images and listen to our recorded legacy anytime they feel like it. It’s a really cool thing.”

Last modified on Monday, 13 January 2020 11:52

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