bakerybard should really be writing this because Oysterband is her favourite band on the planet. However, I'm not sure if she actually got any sleep last night after all the excitement of the concert, so I'll take a stab at it.
Perhaps I should start at the beginning. A few weeks ago, bakerybard asked me if I would be interested in going to an Oysterband concert. I vaguely remembered bakerybard mentioning Oysterband before, but I didn't know anything about the group beyond the name. Still, it sounded like it could be fun, so I agreed. Fortunately, bakerybard was kind enough to lend me most of her Oysterband CDs, which meant that I could familiarize myself with their music before the concert. It also meant that I spent the weeks leading up to the concert listening to a helluva lot of Oysterband, but it was totally worth it because I quickly became a fan and the concert meant more to me because of it.
The concert was held at Hugh's Room, a venue neither of us had been to before. I was pleasantly surprised because it was a fairly intimate space and, yet, we weren't forced to stand in a packed room. As we opted not to have dinner at Hugh's Room, we didn't have a seat at one of the tables. However, this worked out better in a way because we were able to claim a pair of stools that had a really good sight-line and were pretty close to the stage. In fact, we probably had an advantage over a lot of other people because the stools were higher than the seats at the tables. Anyway, as we arrived almost an hour before the show started, we sat, talked and drank. bakerybard got the first round -- a Guiness for me and a Strongbow for her -- and I got the second round -- Strongbows for both of us. Suffice it to say, we had a nice buzz going by the time Oysterband arrived on stage.
I was amazed at how good Oysterband sounded live. bakerybard and I discussed it during the break and we don't think John Jones (the lead singer) missed a single note. He was amazing! Well, the whole band was! One of the first things that struck me about Oysterband was the complexity of its instrumentation, with its guitars, fiddle, cello, drums, etc. Another thing that impressed me was the range of their music, which is something we witnessed last night. While the band played a few songs off their latest album, Meet You There, they also played some older tunes, like "Uncommercial Song" (one of my favourites), "Oxford Girl," "The Deserters," and "By Northern Light". They also played some polka-esque songs reflecting their roots as a ceilidh band. I'm not sure what they were expecting, but the members of the band (especially John Jones) seemed genuinely awed by the warm and enthusiastic response from the audience.
Of course, like any audience, this one had a heckler. Some idiot near the front kept demanding to hear "F-Word," but almost thirty years on stage has obviously taught Oysterband how to deal with obnoxious jerks. All the same, there was one hilarious moment near the end when this fat drunk guy stood up and started hollaring, "Bells of Rhymney!" Then, when that didn't earn the desired effect, he switched to "Bells of Fuckin' Rhymney!" The lead singer then said, "Wow. He must really want to hear 'Bells of Rhymney'." I'm not sure, but I think Ian Telfer (on fiddle) and Chopper (on cello) played the opening to "Bells of Rhymney". Then something extraordinary happened. John Jones abandoned the stage microphone and moved forward, leading us through "Put Out the Lights". Most of the audience was able to sing the chorus, including yours truly thanks to bakerybard's CDs. I was sure that would be the highlight of the evening, but Oysterband had another surprise up its proverbial sleeve...
After performing an encore, the lead singer announced that they had some good friends in the audience, friends who had released a cover of the Oysterband song, "When I'm Up (I Can't Get Down)". Then, much to everyone's astonishment, Great Big Sea suddenly popped out of the audience and filed up on stage. Now, Great Big Sea is one of bakerybard's favourite bands. In fact, they're part of the reason she first got into Oysterband, as advertizements promoting the band announced that people who liked Great Big Sea and Spirit of the West would like Oysterband. Well, that and bakerybard knew that Great Big Sea had covered an Oysterband song. Little did she know that they would be appearing on the same stage in Toronto years later. After the shock wore off, her response was: "You're fuckin' kidding me." Then she said it again: a few times.
Much to everyone's delight, Oysterband and Great Big Sea performed "When I'm Up (I Can't Get Down)" (during which Sar kind of fell down because she was balancing on the rungs of her stool) and "Bright Morning Star" (during which I managed not to cry). It really was an incredible sight to see. I'm still wondering if I imagined it all!
Once these two songs were done, Oysterband was finally able to leave the stage. bakerybard and I went off in search of bakerybard's friend, Murray, who I had met at Acoustic Harvest. However, before she could track down Murray, bakerybard ran into Alan Doyle, the lead singer of Great Big Sea. To my surprise, they hugged and started chatting like old friends. Well, as bakerybard attended several Great Big Sea concerts during her university years in St. John's, I suppose they were old friends in the same way that she was old friends with the bass player (e.g. Murray). Still, I was impressed by how easily and comfortably bakerybard chatted with the lead singer of Great Big Sea. However, as I learned when I met him, Alan is a very nice guy.
Eventually Murray appeared, I met him a second time, and he and bakerybard also had a chance to talk. The conversation continued when Murray literally bumped into us outside Dundas West Station, having left Hugh's Room shortly after we did. As Guiness and Strongbow had apparently taken me past mellow to sleepy, I was happy to let bakerybard and Murray do most of the talking on the subway. For that matter, bakerybard carried on a lot of the conversation once we separated from Murray and headed north. *g* When we reached the corner of Yonge & Eglinton just before midnight, she was still talking excitedly and told me that she probably wouldn't get any sleep. I hope for her sake that she did. Thankfully, I fell asleep shortly after my head hit the pillow, which is unusual for me. It had to be the alcohol because after a concert like that I should have been as wired as bakerybard! It was definitely a night to remember! :-)