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Raleigh (being Raleigh) hosts Great Big Sea

A few quick notes about the Great Big Sea concert I just returned from:

  • Thanks to Lynda for selling me her ticket. The seat was incredible. Not that I was in it very much. As posh a setting as the Fletcher Opera Theater is, not a single person on the floor level sat for any length of time, and the balconies were frequently vertical as well.
  • This was a stronger performance than the one at Wolf Trap, minus a couple of lyrical lapses (more on that below). The musical arrangements were polished and the song selection fit the venue and audience very well. The performers seemed to be in good spirits as well. Relief may have been the key word; roughly 500 of the 600 seats were sold, which I believe outpaced any of their previous Raleigh gigs (at the smaller Lincoln Theatre) after a couple years' layoff.
  • "Second lead" singer Sean McCann met his Waterloo. The band members have been rotating solo songs during the current tour, with the stipulation that no song be repeated. McCann chose the Napoleon Bonaparte-themed shanty "Warlike Lads of Russia" (lyrics at the top of this page, which he played unmiked on the stage apron. After explaining he had only learned the song that day, he started strongly then forgot his lyrics with authority, improvising on the fly, then finished strong. It truly could be considered an "epic" fail, as the kids say, but he never gave up and the audience was entertained. Frontman Alan Doyle was quite entertained, predictably, but karma returned when his own lyrical blunder made "Scolding Wife" skid off the road during the following set.
  • Back to the venue: moving to Fletcher was a very good choice. Raleigh's GBS crowds tend to try to usurp the performance, and easy access to the Lincoln's bar makes it worse. Especially during the first set, the classier and more constrained setting (and Doyle's rapport with the audience) kept things enthusiastic but under control.
  • But this is a Raleigh GBS crowd, after all. The second set, after drinks had been refreshed, featured more shouted requests at inopportune times and it seemed to my (admittedly plugged) ears that while enthusiasm was maintained, attentiveness was faltering. And then a young lady (Lord, I feel so old invoking those words) who had climbed the Lincoln stage five years ago clambered onto the Fletcher stage tonight to relive the memory of professing her love to her now-husband and thanked Great Big Sea for "making it possible" from Doyle's mike. A ridiculous distraction. Here's a life suggestion: if you want to make your mark in the world, find your own stage. Don't take someone else's.

I'd be more articulate if I weren't so tired, and it's a work night, so I'll wrap this up. But despite those bewildering moments it was a good show, definitely their best of four in Raleigh, in a venue that fit the music and audience. That audience was multigenerational -- quite older than I was accustomed to seeing, but also some young kids -- but they all stayed on their feet. GBS needs to come back, and this is the place for it.

Set list after the cut.

First set
Love Me Tonight
Process Man
The Night that Paddy Murphy Died
When I'm Up
Jack Hinks
Concerning Charlie Horse
Hard Case
River Driver
Here and Now
Warlike Lads of Russia (Sean solo)
Company of Fools
Run Runaway (with opening audience singalong of I Fought the Law, 1,000 MIles, and a surprisingly almost competent Bohemian Rhapsody)

Second Set
Instrumental medley
Donkey Riding
When I Am King
Something Beautiful
Scolding Wife
Beat the Drum
Dream to Live
Consequence Free (the irony of this song coming after their unanticipated guest on stage was not lost on Doyle)
Mari Mac
Ordinary Day

Walk on the Moon
Old Black Rum
Rant and Roar

Omitted Second Encore
Oh Yeah
Excursion Around the Bay


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You know, Chip, the concert I went to with you several years ago is the last I've been to. I had a great time.

Election Day is just five days away. I'm trying hard, and I think I actually have a chance to win.


Thank you for the update - I'll crosspost the link on my blog comments, if you don't mind. I'm glad you enjoyed the seat, or the seat location - glad it went to someone who actually paid attention to the show.

Seriously? The same idiotic woman from before right back on stage? Holy crap. Maybe if they'd tossed her arse off the stage five years ago, she wouldn't be right back again tonight, interrupting Dream To Live, of all songs. Then again, she wasn't paying any attention to the songs in the first place, so might as well interrupt one as the other.

And there is no way Sean had just learned Warlike Lads. No way. That's all I'm going to say about that one.

Ouch over that omitted encore.

"But this is a Raleigh GBS crowd, after all." I love that line. It does sound like it was better than it's been before. It also sounds like it still would have frustrated me to no end. Merelefest should be interesting.

Again, much appreciation for the info - thus far, most of what I have been able to find written about these shows has been dismally inarticulate.


Well, she didn't interrupt Dream to Live (thankfully -- that song anchored the night). She appeared next to Murray between songs.

It might have frustrated to you to no end, but it really was a significantly better crowd, especially during the first set but still in the second. Can't emphasize enough the role of the wider age range -- it looked positively gray in the lobby before the show but evened out in the house. Those older fans were appreciative and far more vertical than I would ever expect.

Merlefest? Merlefest? (Checks website.) HFS.

I knew you'd love Dream To Live. It's evolved into one of their most powerful live numbers. I like their take on the arrangement much more than Hawksley's.

The wider age range has been apparent at nearly all the theatre shows, that and more men and kids up front. I like it too. It makes for more reasonable behaviour and it also feels healthier and more balanced.

I take it I'll be seeing you at Merlefest? Yet another interesting place to wind up because of GBS.

Hey, Merlefest is out my neck of the woods! I've always meant to go. If you're coming, Chip, we'll definitely have to get together.