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

Garth, Trisha & All the Hits (11.12.16 @ Richmond Coliseum)

Garth Brooks is that rare artist that transcends genres, while still seeming to remain true to his roots. He’s a country singer of ‘Cowboy Songs’, he’s a troubadour in the tradition of James Taylor, and he’s a consummate showman onstage. Perhaps what gets lost in the spectacle of his current world tour is that Garth Brooks is one of the best American songwriters of the last thirty years. 

Photo by the author


Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood (a top-notch performer in her own right) stopped by Richmond this weekend to play an astounding four sold out shows in three days at the Coliseum. The stage was one that allowed every seat in the arena a view (even behind the stage) and Brooks, sporting his famous cowboy hat and headset mic, was so frenetic, running to all areas of the stage, that it was easy to lose sight of where he was actually standing. Yes, the stage, the presentation and Brooks’ persona were big, but it’s the songs that keep the fans coming back in droves some nineteen years since he last played the city.

Photo by Dana Kiser

In 1991 when his album ‘Ropin’ The Wind’ was released, I was a full blown Metal Head, more likely to be listening to Metallica, Overkill or Danzig. But, thanks to my friend Eddie, with whom I rode to school each morning of the 1991-92 school year, even I had to admit that Garth was one hell of a songwriter and performer. Literally every day for two months straight, our morning school commute music was side one of ‘Ropin’ The Wind’, so I got to know those songs very well, and I liked them.

 

Last night, as I was part of a raucous and loud sold out crowd who knew all the words to every song, I thought a lot about that senior year of high school and about my friend Eddie. Music is memory and the memories were very thick as I sang along to “Friends in Low Places” and “The Thunder Rolls.” I felt very fortunate to see this show, and witness a performer who’s at that age now where he seems to fully appreciate all of the adulation and love his fans give him, and every night (sometimes twice in one day) for two and a half hours, he does all he can to reciprocate.

The setlist (mostly from memory, so apologies if it’s inaccurate):

Man Against Machine

Beaches of Cheyenne

Rodeo

Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House

The River

Two Piña Coladas

Papa Loved Mama

Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)

Unanswered Prayers

That Summer

The Thunder Rolls

In Another’s Eyes (w/Trisha Yearwood)

Trisha Yearwood Set:

XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)

How Do I Live

PrizeFighter

Georgia Rain

She’s in Love With the Boy

Garth Brooks Second Set

Shameless

Callin’ Baton Rouge

Friends in Low Places

Night Moves

Piano Man

The Dance

Encore

Wrapped Up in You

Mom

Standing Outside the Fire

 

In closing, it was a pleasure to see a performer who was genuinely having a blast on stage. Brooks and his band have been together for 20+ years and the sense of ‘family’ was palpable. This week was one of the most absurd, strangest weeks I have ever had (that did not involve a morphine drip). It was refreshing to simply be able to go out, have a good time, and realize that I had at least one thing in common with 11,000 other people in my city on a Saturday night. Music has a way of doing that, and I thank Garth for being the facilitator of that.

 

As always, thanks to Dana, and thanks to you 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