Triumph bassist Mike Levine recently went to the racetrack after a long absence from betting on the thoroughbreds and after a few races, he was back in form.
Levine hopes that it will be a harbinger of what is ahead for the famed power trio, which is reuniting after almost 20 years for two dates, the first of which is Saturday at the Sweden Rock Festival in the southern city of Solvesborg.
Triumph, which also includes drummer/singer Gil Moore and lead singer/guitarist Rik Emmett, will also headline the second night of Rocklahoma, a four-day festival July 10-13 in Pryor, Okla.
Depending on how the gigs go, the Canadian hard rock legends may record a new CD next year and promote it with a major tour. Because of the onerous production costs of playing a show at a major arena, Triumph decided to focus its reunion on festivals in which all the bells and whistles and production costs would be paid for.
With hits that included Hold On, Lay It On The Line, Rock & Roll Machine and Magic Power, Triumph sold more than 10 million albums during its 13-year run, beginning in the mid-1970s.
Discord among band members and record label problems ultimately led to the breakup. Now that they're reuniting, the band has had to get back into the old groove.
"A lot of rust, for Gil especially because drumming is a very physical thing and he's got to sing too," Levine noted in a recent interview.
"It's not easy for him. It was pretty easy for me, to be honest with you. I had to work and I'm still not there yet, but I will be when the bell rings if I come out of the gate firing on all cylinders."
"Even Rik's a little rusty with some of the material because he's been playing all the time, but he hasn't played a lot of the songs that we're playing in the shows. It's a learning experience."
Levine, the jokester of the Toronto power trio, noted that after the reunions of Van Halen and the Police, Triumph had to come together to complete the triactor.
"We're the last band standing, really, of the big headliners of the eighties," he said.
The impetus to reunite came from Neil Dixon, president of Canadian Music Week, who had long wanted to put Triumph into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, but only on the condition the trio all make an appearance.
Levine said he and Moore agreed, but Emmett was hesitant. Dixon persisted and the threesome finally agreed to a meeting - at a doughnut shop.
"It was pretty strange for all of us," Levine recalled. "Gil and I have remained friends all the way through. Rik and I hadn't seen each other in so long. It was kind of weird. Neil was supposed to be there, but he never showed up - on purpose."
"So we sit down and look at each other and went, 'So, what's new?' We chatted and it was pretty awkward at first. We started a little communication and it kept going and we decided we're going to do Neil's hall of fame thing."
A couple days before the event last year, the trio joined up for media interviews and Levine said Emmett gave him a huge hug.
"I hadn't seen him really since the coffee shop," Levine said. "We laughed a lot doing interviews and everything went well."
After the award show, the trio convened on various occasions and chatted about possibility going on the road.
Emmett left the group in 1988 to move on with his own jazz and classical material.
Moore and Levine forged forward with a new member and recorded an album in 1992, but it didn't work in the long run and that led to the dissolution of Triumph the following year.
Moore delved into his own sound and music production studio in Mississauga called MetalWorks. Levine became involved in some private business projects and took to living part of the year in Jamaica.
"There wasn't space for Triumph and we were having issues with the record label in Los Angeles and none of us were really happy with what we were doing, so at some point somebody would have left," Levine said.
"Gil would have said, 'I want to hang up my spikes' or I would have said it. Rik just happened to say it first. It just didn't go down the way things should have gone down.
"We all regret what happened. It's kind of like we pushed all that water under the bridge and we don't even talk about it, which is great. We all agreed what's happened has happened; forget about it."
The rockers decided that under the right circumstances, they would tour. Their former agent scoped out a major string of gigs for this year, but a lack of time prevented Triumph from putting anything serious together.
"There were huge offers and a lot of dough on the table, but we said, 'No, we don't want to do that. We don't have time. Let's play a couple of festivals and see how we do before we make a really big commitment,' " Levine said.
The group wanted to do one festival in the United States and one in Europe. The Sweden Rock Festival fit the bill and will include the likes of Judas Priest, Def Leppard, Blue Oyster Cult and Whitesnake.
Earlier this year at the Junos, Triumph was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and it proved to be a special moment. Emmett spoke passionately about his brother, who was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2006 and died a year later.
Moore wore a stylish jacket and thanked his family, who were in attendance, and rocker Tom Cochrane, his long-time friend.
Levine looked the same as he did 20 years ago with his long hair and mustache. Known for wearing hockey sweaters on stage, Levine got a huge response by appearing onstage with a jacket and then removing it to show he was wearing a Calgary Flames hockey jersey and the number 12 of captain Jarome Iginla.
Levine said the trio, which is slated to play for 75 minutes this weekend, including encores for the first gig, will play 11 to 12 songs that are considered fan favourites.
"I think the arrangements are a little truer to the recordings for this little run," he said.
"We'll see how they work. Until you play in front of an audience, you don't even know how that arrangement's going to work out. It's about the music and that's what we're focusing in on, too. We're going out pretty naked. We used to go out with a huge production. With these shows it won't be the traditional big kaboom Triumph show. But it will be great. The music's got to carry the ball at the end of the day, anyway."