Great Big Sea at Olympics Victory Ceremonies in Vancouver, BC, 2/26/10

Most of the rest of the world may have converged on Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics, but userinfosolarbird and me? We were there for Great Big Sea, baby!

I do have to admit it was very awesome that they got dinged to be the headlining performance at the Victory Ceremonies last night–which featured a celebration of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. (For those unfamiliar with Canadian provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador are officially one big province.) You couldn’t have chosen better ambassadors, really!

That said, Dara and I were not expecting other acts to show up as preliminaries, which was awesome as well. This led off with a nice drumming and chanting dance by a First Nations group whose name I didn’t catch, but it might have been the Nunatsiavut Drum Dancers who are featured on the Atlantic Canada House site for the Olympics? Don’t know.

Then we got surprise Irish Descendants! Y’all may recall I’ve posted about them before, so it was great to see them live even though they did only one song. Their lead singer is a rotund little guy with a voice much bigger than he is, it turns out.

Other performers that showed up were Ron Hynes, who I think I remember Bob Hallett mentioning in his Bob’s Soundtrack posts; fiddler Kelly Russell, who was featured in a video that kept running of his performing all over the world and getting people to do a Thread the Needle dance; Tara Oram, a young singer; and Hey Rosetta!, who were a pretty lively group as well.

Meanwhile, a couple of perky announcer types, up on a raised platform facing the main stage, were doing initial banter and throwing trivia questions out to the crowd. While all that was going on, Dara and I chatted with the girl sitting next to us on our row. Our seats turned out to be farther back than we’d hoped, but we did have a lovely conversation with Michelle, who like us was pretty much there to see Great Big Sea and who told us that her husband was in fact from Newfoundland. We stayed in our seats to chat with her before the preliminaries, and while they were handing out the medals. From there I was able to get a good view of pretty much everything that was going on. The whole place was done up in blue, green, and white, which amused Dara and me to no end since those are the colors on the Cascadia flag. ;)

Watching the medals handed out was pretty cool. They alternated between where we were, BC Place, and up on Whistler to hand out for various events, including Men’s Freestyle Skiing, Men’s 4×7.5km Relay, Ladies’ Parallel Giant Slalom, and Alpine Skiing Ladies’ Slalom. I was charmed to see Norway take the gold in the relay, and that the Norwegian team was visibly singing along with their national anthem. After each medal handoff, at least at BC Place, they shot metallic confetti in gold, bronze, and silver into the air. That looked very neat. The medals themselves were also very pretty, quite large but sort of crumpled-looking discs, which was an interesting artistic touch for them. And I must also note that I was quite charmed, during one of the Whistler handoffs, to see several people wearing cow hats on the big screens in their audience. COW HATS! <3 But then we got down to business and introduced the B'ys! We got a countdown on the screens for them, and the audience started going suitably berserk. And we got LASERS cutting through the air over our heads, which was very, very cool. Dara and I had already noticed a wide standing room only area before the stage, though--and as the B'ys ripped into "Ordinary Day", their first song, we abandoned our seats and bolted for there. We got out there only because we showed tickets to the harried-looking BC Place personnel, but we did make it safely out! Not surprisingly, this was only a one-set show, and a somewhat rearranged one at that. It was pretty much full of Great Big Sea's best-loved standards, with nothing off the forthcoming album, and only "Love Me Tonight" and "England" from Fortune’s Favour, too. Here’s the full set list, transcribed out of my hastily scribbled notes:

  • Ordinary Day
  • Lukey
  • Love Me Tonight
  • The Night Pat Murphy Died
  • When I’m Up
  • Jack Hinks
  • England
  • When I Am King
  • Sea of No Cares
  • Helmethead
  • Consequence Free
  • Mari-Mac
  • Run Run Away
  • Encore: Excursion Around the Bay/Fortune

There was minimal banter as well, which wasn’t really surprising either due to the Serious Business of this particular performance. This didn’t stop Alan from letting out the obligatory crack about “the lovely and talented Séan McCann” while introducing Paddy Murphy, though–or from announcing his opinion that there should be Olympics every year, in Newfoundland and Labrador, and inviting the audience to think of the events they could have. (Clearly, Vertical Movement would have to be a regularly featured event.)

It must also be said that the B’ys all looked very, very fine. Alan’s lost the beard and has gone back for the nonce to his soul patch look; he had his black jacket, black long-sleeved shirt, and blue jeans look going on. Séan looked very fine with his hair slicked back, a sort of blue-violet shirt, and a really swank gray striped jacket on over that. Bob had a jaunty scarf on, and Kris had some red-and-black-checked bandanna action going on back at the drumkit. Only Murray looked his usual understated self, with that green shirt I’ve seen him wearing at pretty much every show. It only took a couple songs in for Alan and Séan both to lose their jackets, though!

Hands down, the best fun Dara and I had with this was being among an extremely lively crowd out on the floor. There were a group of Russian girls right ahead of us, and when Dara and I started singing, they turned back to us with these startled grins; Dara said they totally looked like they were thinking, “We do not know how you are, but we like you! You know how to party!” Especially when we whipped up the Cascadian flag between us.

A Newfoundland flag showed up just to the right of us a few songs in, and one very lively gentleman kept bellowing happily about how this was music to dance to. He encouraged us to come back to the back of the crowd where they’d get some old-time dancing going on the next big song; the only reason Dara and I didn’t do that was because we were too busy representing TEAM CASCADIA! <3 And a Polish woman showed up just behind us as well with her red and white Polish flag. She wasn't really getting how to hoist her flag, so Dara helped her do that! And we got her flag to show up on camera with one good clear shot--there was a camera on a high wire sliding back and forth over the crowd, so there were all SORTS of crowd shots that kept showing up on the big screens next to the stage. We got the Cascadian flag up several times, too, although we didn't keep it up all the time. Didn't want to completely block the view of folks behind us, and a few girls did ask if they could scooch up ahead of us. We let them, naturally. But man, it was a truly international crowd, and seriously, seriously awesome. The energy was astounding, even for a Great Big Sea show. You could tell a lot of GBS diehards were on the floor since we did get the obligatory "GREAT! BIG! SEA!" chant going, and although several of the international folks in the crowd didn't know what that was at first, they caught on fast. By the time the B'ys left the stage after their one encore, I was absolutely limp with exhausted delight. Dara turned to me, grinning from ear to ear, and proclaimed that that was AWESOME. She was correct. I'm not sure it would be physically and biologically possible to top the awesomeness of that crowd, unless it involved us going to St. John's and seeing the B'ys perform on their home turf. Dara scarfed a few snippets of the metallic confetti off the floor as mementos, and on that giddy, glorious note, we rambled out of BC Place and out along the crowded, chaotic Robson Street. More on that in the post I'll do on this trip in general! All you need to know from this one, really, is that Great Big Sea + Olympics = unremitting awesome. Team Cascadia takes the gold in Vertical Movement!

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Angela Korra'ti

As Angela Highland, Angela is the writer of the Rebels of Adalonia epic fantasy series with Carina Press. As Angela Korra'ti, she writes the Free Court of Seattle urban fantasy series. She's also an amateur musician and devoted fan of Newfoundland and Quebecois traditional music.