Tuesday night I had the pleasure of seeing Alan Doyle play a very small local music venue. Who is Alan Doyle, you ask? He’s best known as one of the founding members of the band Great Big Sea, who tried their best to hit the big time in the US in the late 90s and early 2000’s after conquering their homeland of Canada a few years before. While they would play to stadium sized crowds in Canada, Great Big Sea (GBS) would play small theatres and clubs in America, where the crowds were smaller, but no less enthusiastic.
GBS is pure nostalgia for me. Their music marks a very specific time period in my life, and reminds me of very specific people. I honestly was not aware that GBS had officially split in 2013. When I heard that Alan Doyle was going to appear at Tin Pan, I knew I had to get a ticket to see what he’d been up to since I last saw him fifteen years ago.
Tin Pan is an interesting, intimate venue in the mold of Alexandria’s Birchmere. They offer dinner reservations with your ticket for preferred seating, and the music, not chatting is the most important thing.
After a funny, sardonic and brief opening set by Donavan Woods, Alan took the stage to sing a song a cappella, proving that his voice is still in top form, then his band Beautiful Gypsies joined him and they started with ‘I Can’t Dance Without You’ from Alan’s latest solo effort, 2015’s ‘So Let’s Go.’ The mix was great, the house was packed and I was pleased to see Alan had not lost any of the gregariousness that made him my favorite member of GBS.
The sing-along started early when the band kicked into ‘When I’m Up’ and Alan demanded audience participation. It was around this time of the night when the crowd began buying Alan shots and doubles of Jameson Whiskey, which Alan never refused.
Here’s the set list, and then some thoughts:
Dream of Home (a cappella)
I Can’t Dance Without You
When I’m Up
Come Out With Me
Where the Nightingale Sings
Sea of No Cares
The Night Loves Us
Forever Light Will Shine
I’ve Seen a Little
In The Morning (Guitarist Cory, solo)
Old Black Rum
Roll Me Bully Boys Row
1,2,3,4 (featuring verses from ‘Tub Thumping’ and ‘You Can Call Me Al’)
Wave on Wave
No matter the size of the stage, Alan is a showman, making sure that everyone in attendance has a good time. Even though we were seated at tables and the bar, dancers got up and waltzed, reeled and jigged.
The biggest surprise for me was that, while with GBS, Alan would sing at least one ballad per album. His set Tuesday was more upbeat and, as such, none of the three pop ballads Alan sang (‘Fast As I Can’, ‘Boston and St. John’s’ and ‘Clearest Indication’) were highlighted. Not that I minded, I was just very surprised.
Bonus: Murray Foster, formerly of Moxy Fruvous and mote recently the bassist for GBS is part of Alan’s band, as is former GBS drummer Kris MacFarlane.
As the show ended, Alan implored fans to stick around for autographs and selfies. Instead of sitting behind his merchandise table, just outside the venue in an entrance hall, Alan took a seat at the bar and the fans queued up to get a pic, a signature and share stories. Props to Alan for taking time with everyone, including a ten year old girl who got a drumstick from Kris and the setlist. Alan autographed the setlist and got a picture. He also spoke for a bit with your dear author, whom he remembered from a meeting a very long time ago.
If you’re like me and lost track of Great Big Sea and their members, Alan has two solo albums (“Boy on Bridge” from 2012 and the aforementioned “So Let’s Go” from 2015) and he’s also written a book. If Alan Doyle, the self-proclaimed ‘Prince of Newfoundland’ and his band of Beautiful Gypsies land in your town, go see him and say hello. It’s a good time, I promise.