Live Review by Casey Bowers
Photos by Harry Acosta
With another St. Paddy’s over and gone, many pub-goers and Irish-for-a-day revellers no doubt heard their fair share of Irish drinking songs and as a result, heard music from The Irish Rovers.
What is seasonal to many, is a mainstay to more than you think, and these fans and followers of Irish music celebrate and enjoy good Irish music all year long.
Some, even while sober.
And why not? Good music is good music no matter when it when it hits the ears. #IrishSunday has been a staple of the Bowers household for many years and while sometimes it’s accompanied by a pint or Irish fare, it’s never without an hour or three of great music from The Dubliners, The Chieftains, The Pogues, Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, Great Big Sea, The Tossers, The Young Dubliners, and of course, The Irish Rovers.
Emigrating to Toronto in the 50s, playing the North American folk club circuit of the 60s and recording a hit billboard single in 1968 that shared room with The Beatles and Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Irish Rovers catapulted to international superstardom. And ever since, they’ve taken it all in stride, remaining as humble as you’d expect from a “simple Irish Folk band.”
On the back of a famously doomed Unicorn, The Irish Rovers rode hard and fast the first 10 years of their existence, securing guest spots on a famous Hollywood TV western, The Virginian, and then launching their own variety show on their adopted native home of Canada on CBC. From 1971-1978, The Irish Rovers Show hosted legends, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Glen Campbell, Anne Murray, and many others.
International Ambassadors of Irish Music, The Rovers have played Carnegie Hall, The Sydney Opera House, and on an #IrishSunday evening when most were watching the Oscars or zombies, The Southern Theater right here in Columbus.
They kicked it off with a rollicking version of the famous Tommy Makem song they took their name from and set the tone for the night. Ever the professional musicians, storytellers, and all-around seasoned performers, the band, led by head Rover, George Millar treated the Columbus all-ages crowd to a 2-part set that drew from their best, most well-known, and fan favorites from their storied 50-year-spanning career.
Delighting old fans and certainly surprising some new ones with their land speed record-playing on “The Dublin Pub Crawl,” the sheer pop perfection of the shiny happy hit, “The Unicorn,” and its brilliant new follow-up, “Narwhal, The Continuing Story of The Unicorn,” it was one for the books.
With a worthy set of pipes showing little sign of wear and a bright, warm acoustic guitar, George strummed, sang, and told stories behind the songs, while enduring grin-or-groan-inducing Irish dad jokes from bandmate, Ian Millar. Through jigs and reels featuring tremendous playing by Fred Graham, Geoffrey Kelly, Wilcil McDowell, Sean O’Driscoll, Morris Crum, Ian Millar, and Gerry O’ Connor, the band played their hearts out from rip-roaring start to glorious finish.
It’s not every day you get to see music legends, and when you do get the chance, your expectations may be tempered by realities about age and time (See: The Stones, Dylan, etc.), but on a cool Sunday evening in Columbus, there were no such kinks in the armor. The Irish Rovers sounded right as rain and on stage at the Southern Theater, seemed right at home.