Great Big Sea
at the MTS Centre,
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
(27 November 2008)

When I got to my seat for the concert at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, I looked at the floor area and had one question -- where will people dance? There were chairs set up in the floor area and barely any space for anyone to really get up and move.

By the night's end, the question would be answered. In the spaces between the rows of seats. And while it would have been nice to have had more space to dance, the energetic performance by Great Big Sea got almost everyone that we could see up out of their seats. Given that the tour is to promote the band's latest CD, Fortune's Favour, they played most of the songs from it, but there were also a lot of their older songs as well.

GBS started off with "Love Me Tonight," and were at full go with Alan Doyle jumping while playing his guitar. By the time they had rolled through "The Chemical Worker's Song (Process Man)," "The Night Pat Murphy Died" and "When I'm Up (I Can't Get Down)," the crowd was joining in on the choruses. (That was just four songs in, by the by.) The music kept going, with Doyle acting like a rock star and introducing most of the songs briefly along the way.

Toward the intermission, Sean McCann did a solo cover of "Helpless" that was absolutely gorgeous. Before they had the audience join in for "Run Runaway," Doyle tested the audience's sing-along capabilities, which ended with him conducting the audience through part of "Bohemian Rhapsody."

When they came back, the band members were sitting in front of the drum set and did an instrumental medley. The energy from both the audience and the performers alike was on the same energetic plain as it was just before the intermission. Audience participation continued through the night, sometimes because it was encouraged by the band and other times just because, well, it was Great Big Sea. There was a group behind me that shouted along with most of the choruses and I don't think they were ever told to be quiet. And I wasn't sitting at floor level.

As much as I would have liked to go through the every song they played to give as complete a feel for the night as possible, my notes have 13 songs listed to the first intermission, another 12 after that, three songs in the first encore and another two in the second encore. (That long list of music included "Concerning Charlie Horse," "The River Driver," "Company of Fools," "Donkey Riding," "General Taylor," "Dream to Live," "Mari-Mac," "Walk on the Moon" and "Rant & Roar.") And after all that, if the lights hadn't gone up, the audience would have still wanted more. I know I did, and people were still calling out their favorite titles even though the night felt finished. The reason is simple: Great Big Sea performed with the energy one expects from them, bantered some between the songs and encouraged (not that we needed it) audience participation all night long.

by Paul de Bruijn
31 January 2009

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