From the opening notes of “Ordinary Day” everybody was on their feet. A sold-out crowd of nearly 4,000 filled the Save-On Foods Memorial Centre for a Canadian celebration — a Great Big Sea of plaid shirts, raised voices and tapping toes.
Celebrating 20 years of music, the pride of Newfoundland played two sets and returned to the stage for two encores. Using half of the rink gave everyone a good view and built a close-knit atmosphere. And to show it knew where it was playing, the band incorporated Sticky Wicket’s name in “The Night Pat Murphy Died”, causing the sitting members of the audience to hold up beers in celebration, while the rest were determined to dance to every song.
The band members flirted with the audience: Sean McCann revealed that his best kiss was in Victoria. Alan Doyle confessed he’d never been kissed in Victoria, and a man in the front row jumped and waved for Doyle, offering his wife to the singer.
On the screen behind, the band showed a commercial they were in for calling cards back in 1993, joking that some audience members might not know what a pay phone is. To include the fans further, the band had posted an invitation on Twitter for Victorians to send in their pictures if they consider themselves “good people.” These pictures were shown on a slideshow as the band sang “Good People”.
In tribute to the Canadian singer-songwriter Stompin’ Tom Connors, Great Big Sea played “The Hockey Song”: the audience waved cellphone lights and belted out the words to the anthem. A woman in front of me gave her all, trying to dance, making her husband stand up, and light a lighter for longer than a second during the tribute song. Her reluctant husband eventually swayed awkwardly beside her. There was no pulling off a “cool composure” at this concert; the music caused anyone that was sitting to at least wiggle to the beat.
Bob Hallett blew me away with his talent; he played the accordion, clarinet, fiddle, guitar, and bodhran, and brought the band’s tone down an octave with his baritone voice. McCann mesmerized the audience when he sang a capella. He was only backed up by the rumbling voices of the rest of the band for the chorus, and the harmonization was beautiful. The talent of the band members shone through at moments like this.
This was a very promising kick-off for the tour. As Doyle said before the band played the last song of the evening: “Here’s to another 20 years.” M