The Proclaimers Bring Energy Back to Ottawa

September 26th, 2018 by  |  Published in Concerts

The big story in Ottawa this week was the wild weather – tornadoes that leveled houses and knocked out hydro for nearly a fifth of Ottawa residents. But that didn’t stop Algonquin Commons Theatre from hosting veteran Scottish folk rockers the Proclaimers, who came in with a whirlwind barrage of uplifting ditties to energize the recently depowered crowd.


Opening Act

Siobhan Wilson got things started with her solo set of deceptively sweet tunes laced with surprising edges and playful banter. Eager to please the bilingual crowd, Wilson showed off an airy rendition of the French wartime ballad “J’attendrai.” But it was her original, sublime and alienating “Dark Matter” that truly showed off Wilson’s vocal range and originality as a songwriter.

The Proclaimers’ raucousness and confidence were a perfect counterpoint to Wilson’s endearingly humble stage presence. Best remembered outside their native Scotland as a one album wonder, the Proclaimers made sure that 1988’s Sunshine on Leith was represented heavily in the tail end of their 24-song setlist. Fans eagerly sat through a jam-packed show loaded with songs showcasing the Proclaimers’ signature blend of foot-stomping old-school rock and roll with Scottish balladry and twin vocalists Craig and Charlie Reid’s idiosyncratic yelping sing-along style.


A Few Surprises in Store

But amid the mix of fiery up-tempo rockers were a few surprises: the transcendental “Restless Soul,” the introspective “Shadows Fall,” and the nostalgic “Streets of Edinburgh” announced the Proclaimers’ artistic versatility. Other standouts included the infectious “Spinning Around in the Air” and turbocharged folk ballads “Let’s Get Married” and “Sky Takes the Soul.”

For a band known mostly for one 30-year-old album, it was a bold move to play 15 songs before a single international hit. This included 4 tracks from their very recent release, Angry Cyclist. Still, fans were treated to a frenetic performance showcasing the skill of a seasoned band with a huge repertoire of crowd-pleasers. Drummer Clive Jenner was especially fun to watch as he pounded the skins with a mesmerizing histrionic energy, stealing the show at times as his band mates looked on in mock annoyance. Despite very little crowd work and a straight-to-business approach to playing through the set, it’s clear that this is a band that knows how to please an audience.


The Hits

Most of the show, however, was effectively a very long warm up for the powerhouse string of hits packed into the final 20 minutes of the Proclaimers’ main set. The mostly unprecedented winds in Ottawa last week tore shingles off houses and left interiors open to the sky, but that didn’t stop fans from raising the roof themselves for favourites like “Sunshine on Leith”, and “I’m on My Way.” Some fans were so into the latter that security had to gently urge a few excited dancers to tone it down just a little bit.

After treating fans to the full range of their abilities, the Proclaimers brought the house down, much like the storm that preceded them. Their most powerful and beloved hits delivered a final punch to close out the main set. While the majority of fans sat fixedly for most of the evening, all were clapping and shaking for the rousing and emotionally charged “Then I Met You”. By the time the band closed with the ubiquitous “I’m Gonna be (500 miles),” everyone was on their feet, singing and dancing along.



The encore included the Scottish independence anthem, “Cap in Hand,” and closed with the aptly named “Joyful Kilmarnock Blues.” The end of the night seemed greatly subdued in comparison to what preceded. It was nevertheless a fitting end. Most of the crowd likely showed up with little knowledge and some curiosity for what the Proclaimers have had on offer in the last 30 years; few, if any, could have left disappointed or unimpressed.


Check out the complete playlist.


Aaron S. Kaiserman

September 26/2018


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