Four years ago, music critic Allan MacInnis accused New Westminster guitarist Paul Leahy of trying to start a one-man hard-glam rock revival with his latest album, All Messed Up.
“Leahy’s sneery, smirky, snarly, bitch-in-heat vocals and glowing guitar tone perfectly suit the form, wrote MacInnis in a Georgia Straight review, “…and you get the feeling that the stage is where this material would really shine.”
Decked out in stage clothes, complete with distinctive lightning-bolt peaked cap, Leahy did shine on stage, according to fans and fellow musicians, who characterized his style as most reminiscent of mid-70s English glam rockers Mott the Hoople and David Bowie.
“Hello Polly (an earlier iteration of Leahy’s band, Polly) played their debut gig at the Heritage Grill sandwiched between two sets of China Syndrome,” wrote China Syndrome’s Tim Chan. “As soon as Paul appeared in his full regalia and plugged in, I swear the whole room was smiling. They totally blew us off the stage.”
During 35 years as a rock guitar player, Leahy won a lot of respect from fellow musicians and fans in the Lower Mainland indie music scene but never made the big stage.
Today his guitars stand silent in a room at the Laurel Place Hospice in Surrey along with a family photo and a couple of colourful images of him onstage.
Leahy was diagnosed with malignant and inoperable oral cancer in October; he moved into hospice the day after his 58th birthday.
This month, eight Vancouver bands will gather at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver for “The Super Duper Show” – a concert to pay tribute to the New West musician and raise funds for his family, wife Kimiko Karpoff and son Finn.
Silenced by cancer, Leahy the rocker won’t be there.
But there’s another side to him that lives on at hospice and will live on in the hearts of his family, one that has co-existed with his stage persona all along and sometimes been at odds with it, according to Karpoff.
“Part of the challenge was his humble and self-deprecating manner,” she said.
She tells of one time after a set when Leahy had changed out of his Polly garb into his street clothes and was standing near the back of the club.
Not recognizing him, an audience member asked Leahy if he’d seen the amazing guitar player who’d just been on stage.
Off the stage, Leahy was a stay-at-home dad who had worked for some time as the assistant manager of his New Westminster apartment complex.
When Finn, now 20, was little, his rocker dad spent hours sitting with him in the park across from the little fire hall near their place.
“They’d sit with their juice boxes and snacks, watching the firefighters wash the trucks and check equipment,” Karpoff wrote in a recent blog post.
The Super Duper Show, however, is about paying tribute to Leahy’s musical career, which included time with the Toys and No Fun in the early years and then the Transvestimentals, Pleasure Suit, Hello Polly and, finally, Polly.
The Jan. 27 concert will feature the seldom seen Pointed Sticks, Polly Suit (members of Polly and Pleasure Suit), SLIP~ons, The Furniture, Swank, China Syndrome, The New Black, Tayt Modern and a performance by Finn.
Available at the show will be a limited edition “Polly Package Box Set” ($35) with three CDs, postcards, photo cards and other memorabilia spanning Leahy’s career beginning in the 1970s.
Tickets ($15) for the The Super Duper Show are available online or at tinyurl.com/SuperDuperShow.
To contribute to an online GoFundMe campaign for Leahy’s family, visit www.gofundme.com/superduperstar.