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GREAT BIG SEA AT ISC
It took roughly 20 hours of travel to get from St. John’s, Nfld., to Edmonds, Wash., but, now that he’s there, Bob Hallett is feeling strangely at home.
“It’s right by the ocean and it doesn’t look all that dissimilar, really, to my own neighbourhood, but yet it’s almost 4,000 miles away,” Great Big Sea’s vocalist, fiddler, bagpiper, accordion and mandolin player (to name but a few of the instruments in his repertoire) told KTW.
“Temperature-wise and climactically, it’s 11 degrees and foggy, which is almost exactly what it was when I left St. John’s yesterday morning. It feels a little bit weird.”
Edmonds kicks off the final leg of the band’s 20th anniversary tour, which arrives in Kamloops on Friday, Oct. 25.
To round out the year, they’ll also make stops in places that are off the usual beaten touring path — Moose Jaw, Sask., for instance.
Even Kamloops is a rare stop for the band these days, with Hallett noting other B.C. destinations like Prince George have gone more than a decade without a visit from Great Big Sea.
“When we did the first four legs of the tour, we didn’t hit all the places we wanted to. So the point this time was to play where we want to play,” he said.
“By the time the tour is over, everyone who wants to see Great Big Sea will have had the opportunity to do so,” he said.
While it took most of a year to craft a schedule that would take the band to some of its more offbeat destinations, Hallett said the extra energy was worth it.
“It’s amazing,” he said.
“For us it’s always fun. It’s the reason we get out of bed every day, so we can go play concerts for people.
“But, for the audience, for people who fell in love with the band and haven’t had a chance to see them in a long time, you can see in their faces, you can see how happy they are to sing and dance with us.”
For fans who’ve caught more recent shows, there are still some surprises in store.
While the band wrote some new material for its greatest hits compilation, XX, released last year, Hallett said the tour is an opportunity to dig deep into the Great Big Sea archives.
“We essentially rehearsed just about everything we’ve ever played,” he said.
“There’s probably 40 or 50 songs that we’ve never performed for one reason or another in the course of 11 or 12 albums.
“We tried to get as much of it up and running as possible.”
While the band’s lineup has shifted over the years, with the departure of bass and guitar-player Darrell Power in 2003 and the addition of two supporting members at about the same time, Hallett says the core of the band’s sound has remained the same across two decades.
“The essence of it was the four of us, then the three of us, then the five of us playing and singing together,” he said.
“When we’re making a record, many things have come and gone — we’ve collaborated with this huge list of people.
“But, onstage, it essentially came down to us singing together and it’s been the same since day one.”
It’s that collaboration, as much as the folk, rock and pop songs, that keeps audiences coming back to the band, Hallett suggested.
“People sort of damn us with faint praise sometimes and call us a party band,” he said.
“But, the reality is, people go to a concert to have fun and we make sure that they’re part of it.
“They get a chance to sing, they get a chance to dance. They get a chance to put their troubles and worries and concerns aside for an evening and just be themselves the way they were when they were 14.
“And it’s that way for us too. Every night it’s a chance to be young again.”
Great Big Sea plays Interior Savings Centre on Friday, Oct. 25.
Tickets are available at ticketmaster.ca.