Thu, Apr 25, 2013.
When Great Big Sea take the stage Thursday night at the Casino New Brunswick in Moncton, it will be the usual affair for this year's ongoing 20th Anniversary tour. The show's sold out, the audience will no doubt go crazy for one of the very favourite bands in the country, and certainly in this province. While I'm sure GBS will give it their all, but you'll have to excuse the group if they're a little distracted and still reflecting on a couple of shows they did this past weekend. After all, they got to witness a bit of history, and play a role in some healing.
As part of the 20th Anniversary tour, the group took a swing through the U.S. east coast, where they've had a strong following almost from the start of their career. That includes Boston, a city where the world's eyes were focused a week ago. The events there were unfolding at the same time Great Big Sea were on tour in the area. "Boston's really the first place we played in the U.S.," confirms Alan Doyle, from the road in Vermont. "We've been playing there longer than some places in Canada, so to us it really had to be part of our 20th celebration." Of course, the tour dates were set in stone months ago, and once the bombings occurred, it looked like the pair of Boston shows might be cancelled.
"We were playing in New York City Friday night," explains Doyle, "and right up until then we didn't know if we could even go to Boston, let alone play." But then the drama unfolded that lead to the capture of the second bombing suspect, and a great sigh of relief was heard across Boston. The shows, Saturday and Sunday at the Wilbur Theatre, were allowed to go ahead. And Great Big Sea got to be the party music for 1500 ticket-holders who'd lived through the city's nightmare.
"It was a pretty special time to be there," Doyle reflects. "It was the reclamation of the city. The whole city was kinda cautious, but grateful to have their city back. It was like, 'It's our town and you're not getting it.' We've always had great audiences in Boston, but this was something special, we were part of it. People were thanking us for coming, but we had no intention of not coming."
"The first few tunes, and the time leading up to it, the half-hour before the show, it was unique. It really felt like the band and the people in the audience were grateful to be there. It was just a wonderful coincidence that we were there and able to help people through."
It's been a special few months for the band, as they've been celebrating the release of their XX compilation, a two-disc set that covers the first two decades of songs. Disc one covers the hits, the more pop side of the group, while the second one focuses on the traditional, folk, and Newfoundland music. It's a superior set, a lot of great music, and Doyle says the band felt the album and anniversary did deserve some sort of recognition: "That's kind of the way we felt putting it together. We've never been good at patting ourselves on the back, but we felt it would be too bad if we didn't mark it. And when we put it together we did say you know, that's a pretty good collection."
Although this is the only N.B. show for the tour, there are some summer festival gigs nearby, including the just-announced August 4 gig at the Riverfront Jubilee in New Glasgow, so those who miss out in Moncton can hopefully get a chance if they want. Doyle says there will probably be another 60 to 80 dates this year, and no firm plans after that. "We're just gonna see what comes next."
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).