Homegrown talent heats up Gander birthday celebration

Justin Brake
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Concert Review Great Big Sea, The Novaks, Ron Hynes, Rex Goudie, Hey Rosetta!, Aislin House and The Navigators take the stage

"Where else in Canada can you do this?" Alan Doyle asks the 7,000 or so packed into the small field at Cobb's Pond in Gander to celebrate the town's golden anniversary.

The Great Big Sea singer is referring to the diverse but talented lineup of Newfoundland bands that accepted an invitation to play Gander's Great Big Ann-iversary, the biggest concert in the town's 50-year history.

Great Big Sea

"Where else in Canada can you do this?" Alan Doyle asks the 7,000 or so packed into the small field at Cobb's Pond in Gander to celebrate the town's golden anniversary.

The Great Big Sea singer is referring to the diverse but talented lineup of Newfoundland bands that accepted an invitation to play Gander's Great Big Ann-iversary, the biggest concert in the town's 50-year history.

The constant drizzle isn't on par with the typical Festival of Flight weather conditions, normally warm and sunny, but given the event's down-home theme it couldn't be more fitting.

Families fill the majority of the field with their lawn chairs, rain gear and lunches, the beer garden at the back of the field is the choice spot for much of the crowd from the kitchen party the night before, and a few hundred pack the area in front of the stage to get a good look at the performers.

They might be there to see Aislin House, The Novaks, The Navigators, Ron Hynes, Hey Rosetta!, Rex Goudie or Great Big Sea - or all of them, given the roster's uniqueness.

Aislin House, The Novaks and The Navigators provide a good cross-section of traditional Newfoundland music and rock 'n' roll in the afternoon.

Hynes is in fine vocal form as he takes the crowd through a selection of songs spanning a few decades, but with the noticeable omission of "Sonny's Dream."

Hey Rosetta! doesn't induce the same energy as from the St. John's crowds, but curious onlookers are attentive as the band runs through a set of mostly new material. By the end of the band's 45 minutes, at least one person is crowd surfing at the front.

Goudie generates some screams from the younger spectators, but earns the attention of others when he showcases some of his newer, less "Canadian Idol"-friendly material and closes out his set with a Tom Petty cover.

The night, though, really belonged to Great Big Sea.

Late-comers are still trickling into the concert site when the band takes to the stage.

The at-times horizontal drizzle and below-average temperature seem to fuel the boys as they launch into the set with a slew of energy.

They set the tone with the upbeat and feel-good "Love Me Tonight," the opening track from their new album "Fortune's Favour".

"Let's make love," Sean McCann exclaims to the crowd when the song ends, surprising Doyle with a kiss on the chops.

The band's playful banter and occasional sexual innuendo make it apparent they are as excited to be in Gander as the locals are to have them.

"It's great to be in Gander," says Doyle. "It's been way too long."

They fill the first part of the set with hits like "When I'm Up," "Lukey," "The Night Pat Murphy Died," and "General Taylor".

"England," an impressive traditional-sounding number written by McCann for the new record, is a highlight of the show, as is an early rendition of "Sea of No Cares," during which Doyle explains it was the version the band played in the living room before the song was recorded.

"The Old Black Rum," "Mari Mac" and "Ordinary Day" are memorable performances toward the end of the set and earn enthusiastic applause from the crowd.

For the encore the band invites Hynes and the other performers back to the stage for an epic performance of "Sonny's Dream."

Tim Baker, Mark Neary, Rex Goudie and the girls of Aislin House share a mike for the song as members of Hey Rosetta! dance and pass around a bottle of wine on the other side of the stage.

In the middle, Hynes sings with a smile on his face and is joined by Doyle on certain parts.

The crowd also joins in, taking the song to anthemic level for the evening.

The encores are rounded out with Great Big Sea's most recent radio hit "Walk on the Moon," "Straight to Hell" and a surprising cover of The Knack's "Good Girls Don't".

The novelty of Gander's Great Big Anniversary concert might be obvious, but it's unlikely anything like it will happen again soon.

Those who witnessed some of Newfoundland's top performers join Hynes on "Sonny's Dream" have a story they can tell for a long time.

Organizations: Great Big Sea, Aislin House

Geographic location: Gander, Newfoundland, Canada St. John's England

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  • Geoff
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    That was a lovely review. Felt like I was there, for a moment. Thanks Justin!

  • Geoff
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    That was a lovely review. Felt like I was there, for a moment. Thanks Justin!