With a diverse fan base ranging from families in their living rooms to beer-swilling carousers in their favourite pub, it’s no wonder these Irish lads have been roving for 4½ decades.
This weekend, local audiences will have a chance to enjoy the rousing refrains of The Irish Rovers, when they visit the Bell Performing Arts Centre Oct. 2.
The Surrey stop is part of the group’s Home In Ireland Tour, celebrating 45 years since their debut recording in 1966.
With dozens of such tours under their belts, founding member and predominant songwriter George Millar said the band is “still amazed” at the sold-out crowds that come out to see them, noting a diverse cross-section of ages among those attending their live shows.
“The little kids that we sang The Unicorn Song to, they’re grown up now with kids of their own,” Millar told Peace Arch News by phone last week during a stop in Prince Albert, Sask. “It’s got us wondering when we’ll ever be able to retire at this rate.”
It was the aforementioned ditty – originally a poem by U.S. poet Shel Silverstein – that launched the Rovers onto the world stage in the late ’60s.
But it was the group’s lively charm and catchy, sing-along tunes that kept them on the radios and TVs of Canadian households throughout the next few decades.
The Irish Rovers Show – a CBC-produced variety program the band starred in for seven years – was group’s first foray into television.
It was followed by The Rovers Comedy House in 1981, a seven-part CBC series, and Party With The Rovers, another musical variety series that ran from 1984 to 1986.
Throughout this time, the group managed to record an average of about one album per year – their latest release, Home In Ireland, marks album number 37 for the band.
The band’s longevity – not to mention productivity – is a feat Millar admits is “rather amazing.”
“I don’t have a clue how we did it,” the Vancouver Island resident said, noting that, in many ways, the songwriting, recording and touring process has gotten easier in recent years.
“You don’t have the same pressure that you did when you were a young fella, with the responsibilities of mortgages, children and families and that.”
Though there is still plenty on the horizon for the Rovers – including an upcoming U.S. tour, a Christmas album and DVD and a new album due out in March – Millar said the band’s roving days will be coming to an end in a few years.
“We’re going to retire from the road in about four years – when we mark our 50th year,” he said, noting the hassle of travelling cross-country and internationally with so much gear has become too big a burden for the group.
“It’s an absolute logistical nightmare.”
For those who catch The Irish Rovers in Surrey this weekend, for what could be one of the group’s last local appearances, Millar promises the two-hour show will feature a mix of new tunes and recognizable classics that should make for a fun time for all.
“If they leave whistling Drunken Sailor, then we know we’ve done our job.”
The Irish Rovers are set to hit the stage at the Bell Performing Arts Centre, 6250 144 St., at 7 p.m. Oct. 2.
Tickets are available online at www.bellperformingartscentre.com or by calling 604-507-6355.