It’s Friday night and Ottawa is ready for a party. Capacity crowds are filling the lawns of the Canadian War Museum for another night of great music.
Shortly after 7:00pm, pillar of the Canadian music industry Matthew Good took to the Bell stage along with a backing band on guitar, keys, bass and drums. Good and company treated an enthusiastic crowd to a mix of Good’s decade worth of solo work ( “Born Loser,” “Non Populous,” and the first single off his upcoming album, Arrow Of Desire, “Had it Coming”) along with a greatest hits package of his former group, the Matthew Good Band, including “Load Me Up,” “Hello Time Bomb,” and “Apparitions.” Although stage banter was at a minimum, Good was able to ease the crowd from hard rocking to mellow and back again without problem. Playing music publicly for twenty years, Good’s voice was as strong as it was in the 90s and his backing band played every note with skill and precision.
Great Big Sea, another Canadian music staple, hit the Bell Stage at 9:30. At the back of the stage was a video screen surrounded by the Roman numeral 20 (XX), as Great Big Sea are celebrating twenty years as a band. The crowd was enormous, standing shoulder-to-shoulder from the Bell stage to the Claridge stage. Everyone was was ready to dance, sing and party. The Morse code for SOS beeped over the P.A. and the band broke into “Ordinary Day.” On the first song, the crowd was already singing along. That carried into the next two songs, “Donkey Riding” and “When I’m Up” and, really, throughout the rest of the show. Strapped with a new instrument on virtually every single song, the boys of GBS were having a love affair with Ottawa, dropping the capital city’s name into the lyrics of several songs, including “The Night Pat Murphy Died” and “England.” At one point, Sean McCann stated that it was in Ottawa that they “learned what it is to be Canadian,” and Alan Doyle mentioned twice that “the greatest Great Big Sea fans in the world are in Ottawa.”
As GBS were celebrating twenty years with us, they treated us to a rarely played song off their first album called “What Are You At?” but not before showing us the Newfoundland telephone company commercial that the song was featured in. At one point, all instruments were dropped for the a capella song “General Taylor” – the harmonies were incredible. The high notes soared and the bass notes rumbled in your belly. Knowing their audience well, before breaking into “Helmet Head,” Alan Doyle introduced it as a, “a song for a hockey town who knocked the Montreal Canadiens out of the playoffs.” As they played “Merry Mac,” the band continued to speed up so that, by the end, you were left wondering if they were still singing English words. Alan Doyle said it best near the end of the show: “Thank you for 20 years [of Great Big Sea], and here is to 20 more.”