Alan Doyle returns to Kitchener

BT NICOLE CLARK

Alan Doyle continued his So Let’s Go tour with his second Canadian show in Kitchener at Centre in the Square on March 29, entertaining 1,800 audience members.
The show was one Doyle had been looking forward to for quite some time. “Kitchener is the biggest one, so this is the one I have had my eye on. This is the biggest gig, almost 2,000 people coming tonight,” he said during an interview a few hours before he was set to perform.

Kitchener happens to be more than just another tour stop for Doyle. In fact, he cited Conestoga College as an important part of his past. “I think Conestoga College was the first college or university on the mainland of Canada that I ever played in my life. In 1994, I think it was ’95 or ’94,” he said.

Doyle is one of the former lead singers of Great Big Sea, a Canadian folk rock band from Newfoundland and Labrador that was formed in 1993, just after Doyle graduated from university. The band has since retired, spawning Alan Doyle to perform on his own with what is now Alan Doyle and the Beautiful Gypsies.

When asked about the biggest difference between performing with Great Big Sea and now, Alan said, “The biggest difference is this band has much more variety in it. Great Big Sea, we primarily played Newfoundland traditional music and songs based on that kind of music. Whereas this one is much more varied. We do lots of Newfoundland traditional music and influenced stuff, but we also do a bunch of singer-songwriter stuff and rock and roll and country music and it’s just a bit more varied. They’re both a ton of fun. I have enjoyed every night with both of them so far.”

Music has always been a part of Doyle’s life. “To be honest I was already playing in bands before I went to university. I started playing in bands when I was really young, because my mom and dad did it, my uncles all did it. We kind of had a family band,” he said.

Doyle began playing music with his uncles when he was 14 or 15, then played clubs, dances and weddings. “Then I sort of used music to pay my way through university,” he said.

“Right as soon as I graduated university, Great Big Sea started, so I kind of had to make a choice. Right away though, it was like, ‘OK.’ It was perfect timing really, because I had my degree done and I was still only 22 or 23 or something and I got the chance to come tour in a band and I said, ‘Oh, I’ll just do it for a while, and, you know, most likely it won’t work out and I’ll go back to doing a real job and that was 26 years ago. Yup, so far, so good,” Doyle said about the experience.

What day job could he go back to? He said he has a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of education from Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s. Aside from that, he worked as a museum interpreter for almost 10 years prior to joining the band.

“I started when I was 16 and I finished when I was 24. When Great Big Sea got signed, I had to quit. I worked at the Newfoundland Museum in St. John’s doing tours. And I absolutely loved it. It was so cool just talking to people about Newfoundland all day long, it was awesome,” said Doyle about the experience.

His work with Great Big Sea led him to make a Hollywood connection with Russell Crowe. “He had heard about Great Big Sea when he was filming movies in Canada and was kind of a fan of the band. In true Canadian form, we met, we happened to be in the same room in 2002 or something when he was in Toronto shooting a movie and they asked him to give out a trophy at the NHL hockey awards,” he said.

Doyle was also to be handing out a trophy that night. “We met up and he heard about me and we got together and wrote a few songs, off we went,” he said on the encounter that blossomed into friendship and opportunity. Since then, Doyle has worked alongside Crowe in the movie, Robin Hood, the television show Republic of Doyle as well as written songs and albums together.

“Getting a chance to work on a movie with him is kind of like getting to play a shift of hockey with Wayne Gretzky or something. Nothing short of inspirational to watch people like him and Kate Blanchet and Ridley Scott and those people who worked on the Robin Hood movie, to watch them do what they do up close like that is an incredible experience, you know, just because they’re so ready for work and they’re so prepared and they’re so open and eager and it’s just a real lesson in life, it’s fantastic,” he said.

During the concert, Doyle thanked the audience and Kitchener as a whole for always being good to him and his band and for the warm welcome they received.

Throughout the show, Doyle engaged with the audience, telling jokes and stories and inviting them to sing along with him. Two songs that got the crowd singing, clapping and dancing were Sea of No Cares and Run Runaway.

What is Doyle hoping will come out of this tour? “I’m just excited for people to come and check it out. I think that if people liked what they saw in Great Big Sea then they’ll love this. It’s got a great kitchen party vibe to it. It’s all inclusive, everyone gets to sing along. Some super-talented people joining me on stage, what could go wrong?” he said, referring to his band members.

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