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.