Photos and Article by: Andrew Kopanski
Lowell, MA – The breakup of Great Big Sea in 2013 was a surprise to many. After twenty years of touring, the iconic Canadian folk rock band had amassed a significant number of followers and awards, many of them on the east coast. They’d become a mainstay on the tour circuit in the Boston area, sharing their unique interpretation of traditional Newfoundland folk songs and original music. But all is not lost. Alan Doyle, former front man for the band is touring on his own in support of his three solo albums and brings along favorites from the extensive Great Big Sea catalog.
Air Traffic Controller took the stage one member short – female lead Casey Sullivan was notably missing. This means that some of their songs wouldn’t be heart tonight. Lead and founder Dave Munro and Sullivan harmonize together on many of their tracks but they separate for some of their duets such as the adorable “You Know Me” and “What You Do to My Soul.” Munro still receives some backup from talented multi-instrumentalist Steve Scott on vocals but for the most part he’s on his own. And he does just fine.
Munro chooses a set of his more autobiographical tracks that reflect on his past life. He used to be an air traffic controller for the Navy which is where the band receives its namesake, but his stories take us even further back. In “The House,” an energetic track about his childhood he reflects on how his house was always the liveliest where friends from all walks of life were free to hang out and always accepted. The stories continue with “Hurry Hurry” and “After Party” with the energetic band rocking the stage
A theme begins to develop as Alan Doyle begins his set with a story about his childhood. He explains how he grew up in rural Petty Harbour, Newfoundland in a family that didn’t have many worldly possessions. While they lacked a car and plumbing, their prized possession were a piano, guitar, and accordion. Instead of wishing things were different, Doyle expresses his appreciation for what he did have and the experiences that helped make him the person he is today and provided him with a wealth of songwriting material. Doyle is a man who exudes happiness and a true love for what he does. This is a rare and truly appreciated trait amongst people in this world, and for Doyle, it shines through in every song he performs. He genuinely expresses his gratitude to his fans, many of whom have followed the band for decades.
There is a wealth of material for Doyle to choose from, not only from his Great Big Sea originals but in all of the Celtic and Newfoundland folk tales that he’s reworked. He has a new album out earlier this year that is quintessential Doyle. Throughout every track there’s a theme of unbridled optimism. It’s an eclectic show then between these new songs and tales of murderous pirates and drinking songs.
With the crowd enjoying the show just as much as the performer, everyone danced the night away while reveling in the beautiful summer weather and jovial atmosphere of this Lowell Massachusetts venue.