Great Big Sea to roll into Ann Arbor’s Michigan TheaterWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Long Life” is the spirited, rollicking track that starts Great Big Sea’s new disc, “Safe Upon the Shore.”
“I think the opening of that song sounds like it’s from a state fair concert from 1940, just a little tiny guitar and a little guy singing his little song, and then it bursts into this massive thing,” said lead singer and guitarist Alan Doyle.
The band from Newfoundland is known for its high-energy shows.
“Our apprenticeship was really playing in the pubs of Canada,” he said during a call from a tour stop in Pittsburgh. “We had to compete with the conversation and the good times that were already going on in there. To command the attention of a hundred rowdy sailors at a drunken pub, you really have to be on your game all the time or you’re just going to fade into the background.”
Since forming in 1993, Great Big Sea’s surge in Canada has been relentless. The band has been nominated for several Juno Awards, including Group of the Year in 1998, 2005 and 2009, and its discs consistently have gone gold or platinum. Through touring, the Celtic rockers started to make waves in America.
“I’ve done, must be well over 2,000 Great Big Sea concerts, and I’m practically as giddy about them now as I was in 1994,” Doyle said.
While on the road, Doyle, singer and bodhran player Sean McCann, singer and multi-instrumentalist Bob Hallett, bassist Murray Foster and drummer Kris MacFarlane stay busy.
“Part of [‘Safe Upon the Shore’] we did kind of in backs of dressing rooms and tour buses and was kind of just out of availability. We’re all dads now and we’re out on the road and we’re waking up at 7 o’clock in the morning the way dads do. That gives you 13 or 14 hours before the gig starts, so we’re like let’s make a record,” Doyle said and laughed.
“I learned to use a couple [computer] recording programs, so we ended up doing a bunch of it that way. That body of work that’s on the record kind of sounds like Great Big Sea in 1994 because it’s us in a little room doing it the way we used to do it.”
Great Big Sea will play a 7:30 p.m. show Oct. 20 at Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. Tickets are $46.50, $35.50 and $25.50.
If Doyle looks familiar, you may have seen him as a minstrel in “Robin Hood,” which stars Russell Crowe.
“I’ve known Russell for a long time; we play music together, and he’s been in lots of movies since I’ve known him, but this is the first one he called me up for because they needed a musician,” Doyle said. “And he called me up and asked me if I knew how to play the lute, and as luck would have it, I do. And I went to LA and we did a big table read for it, and I got the gig. It was awesome.”