This was Séan McCann‘s first time at the Horizon Stage, and although he was battling a cold he caught in the mountains he captivated the audience with his songs. You may have heard that since leaving Great Big Sea McCann’s concerts have taken on a reflective and almost confessional quality, but experiencing one of these intimate concerts is something else entirely. The evening revolved around McCann sharing how his life has been transformed in the past few years—from sobriety to a shift in his world view—McCann’s stories were funny, tragic and personal (sometimes all in one).
With Son of a Sailor we learnt how the small wharves of Newfoundland were destroyed in the early 1990s and how McCann’s children would never experience the way of life that he grew up with. With Red Wine and Whiskey McCann told us not only about his issues with addiction but also gave us a lighthearted glimpse of his work with Joel Plaskett who produced his 2014 album Help Your Self and his songbook You Know I Love You.
A talented story-teller McCann had the audience singing along to his newer songs [including Plaskett’s addition of a call & response refrain in Red Wine and Whiskey], and connecting the audience not only with him but to each other. A particularly poignant moment was when McCann spoke about Ron Hynes life and death before singing us a stunning version of Sonny’s Dream.
McCann wasn’t alone on stage, he was joined throughout the evening by the singer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Murphy, who at McCann’s urging also shared his own song Finally Coming Home. The second set which included McCann revisiting some GBS hits like The Night That Paddy Murphy Died and Ordinary Day, began with (now) local Martin Kerr singing Little Screens. Kerr played after McCann described a surreal scene of modern-disconnection ,he had flown into Toronto Pearson airport and found it eerily silent because everyone was engrossed in their phones, hundreds of people staring down at little electronic devices.
Fortified by green tea at the intermission McCann’s second set ended with an enthusiastic standing ovation and both Murphy and Kerr joined McCann on an acoustic version of You Know I Love You which he brought right into the audience. The message of the night was that although the world increasingly feels like a dangerous place that love is more powerful than anger, and that our connections with one another are important, and those two ideas together equal hope. McCann through the transformation of his life, through his starting over, embodies that message of hope for the future.
There is a lot going on at the Horizon Stage, please see their site for full performance details.