Alan Doyle Still Has A Smile On His Face (And Four Walls Around Him)

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

My Day

Where the Nightingale Sings

Sea of No Cares

The Night Loves Us

Lukey

Forever Light Will Shine

I’ve Seen a Little

In The Morning (Guitarist Cory, solo)

Old Black Rum

Roll Me Bully Boys Row

Consequence Free

Testify

1,2,3,4 (featuring verses from ‘Tub Thumping’ and ‘You Can Call Me Al’)

[Encore]

Wave on Wave

Shine On

Ordinary Day

 

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. 


Thanks for reading. 

Barry

Old 97s Know How to Throw a Party (The National 08.18.16)

Last week Old 97s played at The National. I could write a lot of words about how much fun they were, about how they are the “rockingest” and “bestest” bar band I’ve seen in ages, maybe ever. 

I could tell you how surprised I was that the show didn’t sell that well, about how I hadn’t planned on going until my friend Dana said she’d go to this venue for the first time so she could see this band. 

I could tell you how impressed I was with openers American Aquarium, especially when they played a slowed-down version of John Prine’s “Spanish Pipedream.” I could say that all those in attendance had a rip roaring, alcohol-fueled party for two uninterrupted hours. And I could tell you how sorry I was that you missed it. 

All of those words mean little when I have this video I could show you. Here is most of the Old 97s song “Stoned” that I recorded only because I knew videoing it would prevent me from screaming the lyrics to the point of losing my voice. 

So here’s the video. I’m very sorry you missed the party, but I’m glad Dana and I were there. 

Make sure you see them the next time they’re in town. Until then, pickup a copy of  (or stream via Spotify) “Alive & Wired”, grab a bottle of something and throw your own party. 


Thank you for reading. 

–Barry

McCartney in DC (08.09.16)

Tuesday marked the first of two nights for Paul McCartney and his band at Washington, DC’s Verizon Center, as part of the ‘One on One’ tour. I’ve been very fortunate to see Paul live in concert before 
(Read about 2009 here and read about 2015 here), and while all three shows were very similar, last night’s edition did provide a fair amount of surprises and songs that have not been played live in decades. 

For example, the show began with ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, a song that, until this current tour of Paul’s, was not performed by a Beatle since 1965! Also ‘Love Me Do’ has been performed on this tour, marking the first time Paul sang it in concert since October 1963, a full three months before the mop-tops arrived in America. (Ringo performed the song on his 2000 tour). Those set list additions were wonderful, but, for me there was even a more surprising addition of a song that I would have never dared dream would ever be performed: The Quarrymen’s ‘In Spite of All the Danger’, written by McCartney and George Harrison and recorded in 1958! That song has been a personal favorite of mine since it was included on the first Anthology set in 1995, and being part of the audience who sang the background harmony vocal (at Paul’s urging) was a wonderful concert moment.

 Here’s the set list, followed by some thoughts:

Photo by Dana Kiser


A Hard Day’s Night

Save Us

Can’t Buy Me Love

Letting Go

Temporary Secretary

Let Me Roll It

I’ve Got a Feeling

My Valentine

Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five

Here, There and Everywhere

Maybe I’m Amazed

We Can Work It Out

In Spite of All the Danger

You Won’t See Me

Love Me Do

And I Love Her

Blackbird

Here Today

Queenie Eye

New

The Fool on the Hill

Lady Madonna

FourFiveSeconds

Eleanor Rigby

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!

Something

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Band on the Run

Back in the U.S.S.R.

Let It Be

Live and Let Die

Hey Jude

Encore:

Yesterday

Hi, Hi, Hi

Birthday

Golden Slumbers

Carry That Weight

The End

 

Some thoughts:

 

Paul is still a great performer, and very energetic. However, his voice is getting very thin (I still can’t believe that he sings everything in the original key, not tuning down at all). There were some moments where he struggled to reach for a note, but those moments didn’t mar a fantastic performance.

 

Every time I read over a McCartney set list (since he began playing Beatles tunes live again in 1990, anyway) I always marvel at how many songs that are included are not just great songs, but landmarks in the pantheon of pop music. It boggles the mind if you think about how many seminal songs Paul had a hand in writing. Because of that, there are about ten songs that, every night are ‘required’ inclusions in the set. People want to hear ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Let it Be’…and ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Live and Let Die’; if you see a Paul show, you will hear those songs, and they are great concert moments. As great as those moments are, I wouldn’t mind if Paul skipped ‘Hey Jude’ or ‘Live and Let Die.’ I know that won’t happen, and that’s okay.

 

This was the first time that Dana and I had seen Paul where we had seats beside one another, so I got to watch her watch the show, which was great. She told me she would cry, and she did. I think it started one verse into the opening number. Now, as a rule I am not a crier at shows; goosebumps? Sure, many times at many shows; but actual tears? That’s rarely, if ever happened.

 

Until this show…and it happened to me not once, but twice!

 

Ever since the wonderful 2002 tribute ‘Concert for George’, Paul has played ‘Something’ and dedicated it to his friend. He begins the song solo on the ukulele for a verse and a chorus, and then when the song arrives at the middle guitar solo, the band joins in to finish the number very close to how it sounds on “Abbey Road.” Right at that moment when the drums and guitar enter, the projection screen behind the band showed a huge picture of George, circa 1970, then they showed pictures of Paul and George in the studio, around a vocal mic smiling and laughing. That’s when I began to cry. After ‘Something’ came ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ which ended In an uproarious sing along. I managed to get myself together by the end of that song. But then, the next song was ‘Band on the Run’ and, as they have done for the past few tours, during this number, the screen displays an archival film of the Band on the Run album photo shoot, showing Paul, Linda, Denny Laine and ‘friends’ posing as prisoners caught in the search light circa 1973. During the first chorus, the screen showed a close up of Linda and I ‘lost it’ again, this time unashamedly using the collar of my shirt to wipe my face. While I saw the exact same images at the show in Charlottesville last year, for some reason, seeing them this time hit me very hard emotionally. It marked the first time I shed tears since hearing of Bowie’s death in January. (2016 has been a helluva year, hasn’t it?) I know I wasn’t the only one crying and smiling through tears, it just really surprised me at the emotional punch those moments had.

 

When Paul released the compilation “Wingspan: Hits & History” in 2001, he practically apologized for including the song ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ and it’s obvious reference to marijuana. Thankfully, the song has been added back to the set and it’s a highlight, no apologies necessary.

 

As I watched the show, I couldn’t help but feel that this may be Paul’s last go-round. Now, the very next day, Rolling Stone published an interview (Read it here) where Paul talks about a new album and doesn’t even hint that he’s stopping any time soon. I hope he tours for years to come, but if this is indeed his last global trek, I’m very glad he’s still in top form, and appears to be having such a great time.

 

Extra special thanks to the staff at Verizon Center, especially Larry, who made sure we were taken care of and arrived at our seats safely without having to negotiate a fair amount of stairs. It was a pleasure seeing this show with Dana. I sincerely hope it wasn’t our last Paul show.

 

A McCartney show in 2016 is just like the lyric said almost fifty years before: ‘A splendid time is guaranteed for all!’

 

Thanks for reading,

Barry

Garbage @ The National 07.25.16

Garbage is back! Shirley Manson is back!

Thank goodness!

 

Monday night saw Garbage’s ‘Strange Little Birds’ world tour make a stop at The National, and the evening proved to be a revelation. After taking a six year hiatus, the band returned to the recording studio in 2012 with ‘Not Your Kind of People.’ Now, four years later, the band has produced what many consider to be their strongest record since their debut album twenty years ago.

 

Lead vocalist Shirley Manson is a tour de force on stage, equal to any male lead singer in stage presence, talent and charisma. She showed the ability to be all at once sexy, sincere and, most importantly SUPER BADASS on stage! Yes there are three other members in the band (Duke Erikson, Steve Marker and Butch Vig, though he’s not touring due to illness, replaced by Eric Gardner), but there’s a reason that the spotlights follow Shirley and the other members are predominantly in silhouette; from the opening number, it’s impossible not to watch her.

 

She’s the epitome of confidence, self-assuredness and ‘Grrrrrrl Power’, which makes it that much harder to believe a decade ago, Manson considered herself ‘finished’ as a performer because, in her words, she ‘wasn’t young or pretty enough’ anymore. Her fans are so glad she was convinced otherwise.

 

Some notes:

• The set was a nice balanced representation of their career, beginning with two songs from their debut and one from ‘2.0’, but the last two records were strongly represented as well, proving that Garbage is not simply a 90’s nostalgia act.

• This show saw the tour premiere of ‘Beloved Freak’ and a dedication to the LGBT Community before launching into a ferocious version of ‘Sex Is Not The Enemy.’ Both songs are very appropriate for the times, given the current political climate.

• The debut single from ‘Strange Little Birds’, ‘Empty’, is a track that stands up well next to any other song in their catalog, and had a hyper energy to it in the live setting.

• I would have loved to see drummer Butch Vig play live, but Eric Gardner filled in admirably. I really hope Butch is able to tour with the band in the near future and his health issues are but a memory soon.

 

The setlist (from setlist.fm):

Supervixen

I Think I’m Paranoid

Stupid Girl

Automatic Systematic Habit

Blood for Poppies

The Trick Is to Keep Breathing

My Lover’s Box

Sex Is Not the Enemy

Special

Beloved Freak

Even Though Our Love Is Doomed

Why Do You Love Me

Control

Blackout

Bleed Like Me

Push It

Vow

Only Happy When It Rains

Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)

Encore:

Sometimes

Empty

#1 Crush

Anything else I write will not convey how great this show was. I’m not one to take pictures at a concert because I don’t like to see a show through a viewfinder or a phone screen. On this night however, I took several hundred pictures with my phone. So, as words now elude me, here are some pictures. 

Girls with guitars ROCK!!




If Garbage stop in your town, go see them. They are proof that rock is not dead. 

Thanks for reading,

Barry