Great Big Sea at the Pantages, 10/23/10

Great Big Sea
October 23, 2010
Pantages Theatre, Minneapolis

Great Big Sea performed two full sets for an enthusiastic crowd at the Pantages Theatre on Saturday night. The crowd thrust their beers firmly in the air, swaying and singing along to every word that passed the lips of frontman Alan Doyle.

The band was in town to celebrate the release of their tenth album, Safe Upon the Shore.  The five-piece showed that not only can they rock, but their accapella chops are worth bragging about. There were multiple times during the show where the hair on my arms stood on end due to the fantastic vocals on stage.  I was expecting a bit more generic folk-rock, but found a wonderful mixture of Irish and Newfoundland-influenced music jumbled up with some straight country and ripping rock guitar solos.  The band easily slid from one genre into another, so you could barely notice the change.  It worked so well for them, and there's no way you couldn't enjoy yourself.  

To put things into perspective, if you've never heard Great Big Sea, it was like a grown-up version of Gaelic Storm mixed with locals the Sweet Colleens and the St. Olaf's college choir -- a hearty rock base overlaid with Irish fiddle, mixed with soaring harmonies; all good things in my book.

Great Big Sea at the Pantages, 10/23/10
Great Big Sea at the Pantages, 10/23/10

You also can't talk about Great Big Sea without mentioning the fans. The crowd was crazy. They jumped up and down, waved their hands, sang every single verse, screamed for more and weren't satisfied after two sets and two encores. They ate up merch like rabid dogs and came prepared to party. There were point-and-shoot cameras video taping every song (which I overheard someone say the band encourages), and people just totally immersed in the music.

The most fun part for me (as I didn't really know many of the GBS songs) was at the end of the first set. The band pulled out a ridiculous number of 1980s hits ("Faith," "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Jack and Diane," etc.) and asked the crowd to sing along.  This crowd was the only crowd I can remember where every single person participated.  It even prompted Doyle to quip, "It's really starting to sound like Glee in here."  It was pretty nerdy, and pretty awesome.

Overall Great Big Sea has their act down pat. They are talented musicians with an extremely faithful following. Their music might not be the best thing in the world to some people like it is to their fans, but you can't help but be entertained at one of their live shows. They work the crowd, they are genuinely excited to be on stage, and their appreciation for what they do seems to shine through every note.  Those things make for a successful band and a happy audience -- myself included.

Great Big Sea at the Pantages, 10/23/10

Critic's Bias: I've had an unnatural obsession with most Irish-based music since I was in high school.
The Crowd: Little kids to oldsters. Mostly people in their 30s and 40s who probably have kids at home.
Random Notebook Dump: I'd really like to see a fiddle battle between Jeremy Greenhouse (Sweet Colleens), Michael Doucet (BeauSoleil), and Bob Hallett (GBS). Like, I'd really like to see that.
For more photos: See our complete slideshow by Stacy Schwartz.

Set One:
Ordinary Day
The Chemical Worker's Song (Process Man)
The Night That Paddy Murphy Died
When I'm Up (I Can't Get Down)
Nothing But A Song
Jack Hinks
Safe Upon the Shore
Concerning Charlie Horse
Good People
Let It Go
Dear Home Town
Yankee Sailor
Run Runaway
*crowd singalong of 80s songs*

Set Two:
Long Life
Love Me Tonight
When I Am King
General Taylor
Scolding Wife
Sea of No Cares
Consequence Free

Encore One:
Follow Me Back
Excursion Around the Bay
Fortune's Favor

Encore Two:
The Old Black Rum
Old Brown's Daughter

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