Irish Rovers charm Penticton audience

John Reynolds and the rest of the Irish Rovers performed to a packed house at Cleland Theatre Friday night. - Steve Kidd/Western News
John Reynolds and the rest of the Irish Rovers performed to a packed house at Cleland Theatre Friday night.
— image credit: Steve Kidd/Western News

After 45 years, the Irish Rovers have lost none of their ability to charm an audience.

The group’s lineup may have changed over the years, but as soon as the Rovers broke into their first song, it was clear they still had the magical touch that has kept them in the hearts of Canadians for nearly half a century.

That first song was their rendition of the classic The Irish Rover, which gave the band its name back in 1963 when a group of Irish expatriates got together to form a new folk band.

The story of the Irish Rovers is one for the big screen; three of their own award-winning international television series (including the top rated Irish Rovers Show), television specials, topping the music charts again and again, and almost 50 years of touring their music around the world, including this latest.

But it would be wrong, though, to think that the Rovers are resting on their laurels and only playing their classic hits. The first half of the concert featured several new songs, including some drawn from their latest CD, Gracehill Fair, and their latest television special, Home in Ireland, which kicked off this tour.

Songs like The Dublin Pub Crawl, Boys of Belfast, Rambling Boys of Pleasure joined old favourites like Wasn’t That A Party, Drunken Sailor, and The Unicorn. And then there are the stories, old and new alike, interspersed with the music — and the audience laughing, applauding and singing along throughout the concert.

Having a good time is what it’s all about, according to George Millar, a founding member of the Rovers and still their principal songwriter. There is no special message on the Rovers’ stage, he said, other than life’s a bit short, so let’s enjoy our two hours together.

Though the band now calls Vancouver Island home, the present tour is named for their latest DVD/television special, which Millar said shows the beauty of their birthplace in Ireland to Canadian audiences.

Home In Ireland is basically The Irish Rovers ‘Coming Home’ because that is our home, for all of us. We want to show the world what the northeast Irish coast is like. I’ve travelled the world now for over 40 years and there’s nothing like it,” said Millar.


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