Sunday, December 27th – Centre 200
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again and again I’m sure. Any chance to see the Barra MacNeils play should not be missed. For many years, the Barra MacNeils played Christmas time shows in Cape Breton, first at Monty’s and the KOC in Sydney Mines and later at Daniels and The Capri in Sydney, and for many, going to see the Barra MacNeils on Boxing Day had become a Christmas tradition. I remember one Boxing Day, a few days before the GST was implemented, standing outside Daniels, freezing in the lineup for that night’s show even before the matinee was over. This year the Barra MacNeils toured the Maritimes with a Christmas show and didn’t make it back to Sydney until the 27th, just in time to headline the Five Star Holiday Bash at Centre 200.
Popular local band Reckless was playing the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” up in the main concourse when we arrived. I had just enough time to get our coats checked before Bruce Guthro started on the mainstage. Joined by Kim Dunn, Matt Foulds and Dave McKeough, they played a tight set of Bruce’s finely-crafted songs including his hits “Falling”, “Ivey’s Wall” and “Walk This Road”. When Guthro’s set finished, Kilt brought the attention back to the main concourse for their first set. With a bit of “The Rodeo Song”, a bit of “Good Hearted Woman” and some Abba, this young band laid out the party tunes with fiddle, bass, guitar and drums and had everybody up dancing. And that’s when I lost who I came with. Large crowds and getting separated from the flock seem to go hand in hand, so I started to wander and found lots of people I hadn’t seen in a long time, who had also ended up adrift from their friends. Eventually I headed towards the mainstage as The Barra MacNeils were about to start their set.
Too often you go to hear a band around Christmas time and they don’t acknowledge the season, simply sticking to their regular set list instead. Not the Barra MacNeils. I was at the top of the stairs leading down to the mainstage when they burst into “Christmas in Killarney” and boy did I feel like one of the folks at home. As they introduced the individual band members at the end of their set, each took a solo turn at a Christmas tune. Kyle started with “Jingle Bells” on the fiddle, Sheumas followed up tinkling “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” on his piano, stuttering and pausing for effect and then Jamie Gatti was unleashed on the crowd with an eight fingered bass solo that sounded like a thick stringed quartet. The rest of their set was an intoxicating mix of instrumental madness and strongly sung songs.
Sam Moon closed the night in his blue flowered dress and barefeet. His set was heavily laced with Van Morrison and reggae tunes which was just right to end the night.