The Beginning of the Long Goodbye
One of their big hits was a Tom Paxton tune, “Wasn’t That a Party?” For the Irish Rovers, it still is. But all good things must come to an end.
The iconic Canadian-Irish band is traversing the United States on what is being billed as “The Beginning of the Long Goodbye Tour.” The Rovers plan to stop touring the United States in 2014. There will be a jaunt to New Zealand after that, and from there a tour of Canada, finally wrapping things up in Toronto in March 2015.
After that, they’ll go no more a-roving. That’ll be it for endless hours on buses and planes, countless nights in hotel rooms of varying levels of quality, and agita-inducing meals on the run.
But that doesn’t mean the end of the Rovers, as front man George Millar explained in a recent call from Chicago. The party is still far from over.
Q. What’s special about 2015?
A. In 2015 the band will be 50 years old. We thought that would be a good time to stop the heavier touring. We’ll still do the odd CD and public appearances, but we figure that’s enough. The day-to-day travel is hard. It’s hard on the back when you’re in a different bed every night for weeks. We were always kept so busy all the time, as we still are, but things changed after September 11th. There are 10 of us traveling at the same time. It takes us hours to get through the airport. We have to arrive at the airport three and a half hours in advance.
As my mother used to say, there’s no rest for the wicked.
We always do the big March tour, which we’re on right now, and then we have summer dates. Sometimes we do a fall tour, and a Christmas tour. But we decided 2014 was going to be our last American tour. We’ll be on that tour next February and March. Then on to New Zealand and Canada, to Toronto. That’s where I started the band. It’s going full circle.
Q. So the touring is taxing. What about performing?
A. The two hours at the end of the day when you’re on stage, you don’t think of those things. (The hassles.) The fans who have supported us all these ears are still coming out. They must be as demented as we are. It’s just happy music. They can tap their feet or clap their hands. It’s just a wee bit harder to get to those two hours.
Q. A lot of bands seem to peak, and they break up. You guys seem to have hit a peak a long time ago, and you’re still on it. How do you account for that?
A. You have to really like each other. Last night was a night off, so we had dinner here in the hotel. We’ve always liked to do things together.
When we first started out in Toronto, we were just playing weekends in folk clubs. We made 25 bucks a week, and we thought, we’ve got it good. It’s just quite a blessing to be able to do what you want in life. If you like what you’re doing, and you get paid for it as well, that’s a blessing. It’s not a real job at all; the fans have let us do this for all these years.
Q. What do you think you’ll miss?
A. It’ll be the stage that I’ll miss. I’m 65 now, soon to be 66. It’s all I’ve done since I’ve been 16. But the band will get together at least once a year to do some things. As tired as we are, everyone still wants to keep a hand in.
Q. Do you think you’ll have regrets?
A. There’s nothing to regret. We’ve all had such a wonderful 50 years. I can’t say enough about the people who came out to see us when they were kids and listening to us singing ‘The Unicorn.” That little unicorn gave us a nice ride for a lot of years.
Starting next week, the Irish Rovers will be touring the Delaware Valley, with shows Friday, March 8, at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside; Tuesday, March 12, at the ArtsQuest Centre in Bethlehem; and Wednesday, March 13, at Live on the Queen in Wilmington. You’ll have several opportunities to hear the 1966 hit “The Unicorn” and other Irish Rover standbys. (Alas, it is too far past Christmas for the band’s cover of the obscure Elmo and Patsy tune “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.”)