This is a somewhat belated concert report since I’ve been busy dealing with Victory of the Hawk, but I didn’t want to go too long without writing this up–because although I am possessed of a mighty sadface that we have no Great Big Sea to look forward to for the foreseeable future, it was nonetheless extremely satisfying to see Sean McCann do his solo show at the Railway in Vancouver on my last trip up to BC.
As this was my first visit to the Railway I didn’t really know what to expect, but I did like the venue. And other GBS fangirls, my usual Vancouver crowd, had snagged a table towards the front, which turned out to be a good thing. Because the place was packed, standing room only in a way I hadn’t really experienced since before GBS started playing the Moore in Seattle. It was a relief to be able to retreat to a place to sit down, just because so many bodies in so small a space ramped up the temperature considerably. The size of the crowd even startled Sean, who remarked that it was something on the order of seven times the size of the crowd from his first Railway show.
This was, hands down, the perkiest I’d seen Sean at a show in years. The show was just him and his guitar and his bodhran, and he was lively, engaging, and in excellent voice. He was in delightful humor, making jokes about starting the show late, and he’s apparently now comfortable enough with himself that he was able to make self-deprecating jokes as well about his battles with alcohol–and in particular, how his wife had sternly vetoed the idea of his putting a glass of scotch on stage with him to build tension as to whether he would snap.
He did a mix of songs off his current record and Great Big Sea material. In the latter case, it was unsurprisingly stuff on which he’d sung lead (and I’m pretty sure it was stuff he’d written as well, though I’d have to look up the credits on various songs). He did several things I hadn’t heard at a GBS show in ages, which was a pleasure to hear. Notable GBS ditties he did were “Good People” and “Safe Upon the Shore” (from Safe Upon the Shore), “Graceful and Charming” (from The Hard and the Easy), “Love” (from Something Beautiful), “Feel It Turn” (from Turn), “The Night Pat Murphy Died”, and “Mari-Mac” (Rant and Roar if you’re me, Play and Up if you’re a GBS vet who pre-dates me in the fandom).
My favorite ditty off the solo album that he did: “Red Wine and Whiskey”, for getting the crowd to sing along with him.
Favorite GBS ditties: VERY pleased to hear him do “Safe Upon the Shore”, though it was decidedly strange to NOT hear the harmony brick on the chorus. Those of us in the audience did our level best to make up for that, though it was less “harmony brick” and more “everybody’s singing at the top of their lungs”.
Also rather startling to hear him actually do “Paddy Murphy”, because of the heavy drinking theme of the song. But this was an example of Sean being very willing to take requests from the audience, while at the same time reserving the right to veto things he wasn’t comfortable singing. (I notice nobody tried to get him to sing “General Taylor”, for example, though SOMEBODY kept yelling for him to sing “Old Black Rum”, to wit–no. Partly because bad idea in general, but also because he didn’t write that ‘un, and it would not be appropriate for him rights-wise to do that one solo unless he’s got Bob’s buyoff on that.) He faked us out with “Paddy Murphy”, too! Sang the first line, pretended to stop, and then went ahead and did the rest anyway to the audience’s delight.
In general he was very active with engaging the audience in the show, and by engaged I mean he kept pulling people up on stage to sing with him. My fellow fangirl Vancouver!Angela, a.k.a. sticckler, got to be in the first round of this when she and a couple others came up to sing backup on the title track from Sean’s current album, “Help Your Self”.
But he didn’t stop there. He got a great big honking herd of us to swarm the stage with him to do his closer–“Mari-Mac”. I could not resist the urge to jump in on that, though it caused a moment of MASSIVE EMBARRASSMENT as I tripped over my own damned feet on the way up there. “OH NO,” Sean shouted, “piper down!” But I scrambled back to my feet and assured him as well as everybody else that I was in fact OKAY, and then we all yelled “Mari-Mac”, and it was awesome.
Afterwards I was a little chagrined on behalf of the band that had to follow Sean’s set–because the place cleared out fast after he was done. A lot of the fans lingered in line because he did in fact do a meet-and-greet after, and naturally, I had to hang around for that. Which resulted in this pic!
I was able to tell Sean to his face that I talk a good talk about falling at the feet of my favorite musicians, but don’t usually mean it literally. And I also made a point of being rather more serious and telling him that I’d also been reading what he’s been saying to the media lately, not only about his fight with alcohol, but also that he’s an abuse survivor. I know what that’s like. And I wanted to wish him love and strength and just general fan support. He thanked me very kindly for that.
So yeah. Great show all around and it does make me feel somewhat better about GBS being on extended hiatus. The question came up again on the OKP as to whether the band will ever emerge from that hiatus, and in what form. Nobody’s saying yet, but it was very noteworthy that Bob Hallett did show up on that thread and say “Never say never.”
I do find myself hoping that eventually Sean will be comfortable enough to rejoin the GBS boys. But until then, if he’s willing to keep singing to us by himself, I’ll absolutely show up for his shows.
Thanks for a wonderful performance, Shantyman. We still love you. <3