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Volume 90, Issue 93

Thursday, March 20, 1997



Showing some Irish spirit

©Randy Gladman/Gazette
OK, I GIVE UP, WE'RE ACTUALLY NOT IRISH. John Mann of Spirit of the West during the band's St. Patty's Day show at The Nac.

Spirit of the West
at The Nac
March 17

Drunken, faux-Irish revellers jigging to Canada's foremost Celtic rock band. A recipe for a fine St. Patrick's Day affair. The magnitude of the happiness at The Nac Monday night could overshadow even the tackiness of green beer.

Vancouver's Spirit of the West churned the crowd into a frothy sea of sweat, while countless beers became airborne. While the kind of inebriated energy this band creates could have produced a riot of soccer-game proportions, its silly stage antics kept the crowd on the happy side of wasted.

On some occasions, SOTW is a politically-outspoken Celtic folk-pop outfit with poignant and pretty tunes about life. On other occasions, the band is an excuse to have a really good time. The latter was its persona at Monday's show, which was appropriate, given the holiday. The band is at its best, however, when it mixes its brainy side with its hedonism.

SOTW is a group of accomplished musicians, recording with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on Open Heart Symphony. Three out of the five members are multi-instrumentalists and the addition of a new accordion bass player, in the absence of Linda McRae, has not slowed the band down at all.

Vocalist/guitarist John Mann is always full of clownish antics and witty conversation, while vocalist/guitarist/flautist/bohdranist Geoffrey Kelly seems to be Mann's fatherly antithesis. Effervescent drummer Vince Ditrich drew the crowd together by having them join him in a lively row of classic Irish drinking songs. Luckily, he didn't get as carried away as he did during their autumn performance at The Wave, at which his over-exuberant dancing caused his testicles to fall out of his shorts. Just the music please, fellas.

SOTW has the ability to pull songs from two distinct categories of music. The pop sensibilities of the band have made it one of Canada's favourites, while the focus on Celtic roots have allowed the members to retain their artistic integrity. Seen live, SOTW moves the audience from catchy pop tunes like "Wishing Line," to barn-burning, jig-your-ass-off Celtic rippers like "Home For a Rest." At its live show, the band displays both sides of the repertoire equally.

As with all good live acts, Spirit of the West enjoys performing. The members are comfortable on stage, they look like they're having a great time and they make the audience feel right at home in pretending they're drunk Irish. For this sober Jew, pretending I'm a drunk Irish person is very liberating.

– Jory Groberman

To Contact The Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997