The Irish Rovers Wind Down Touring

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The legendary Irish-Canadian band the Irish Rovers will gradually wind down an astounding five decades of touring between now and 2015.

After more than 40 records, countless hits and dozens of television specials, leader George Millar and the band might look to the title of one of their hit songs to sum up their remarkable career: “Wasn’t That A Party?”

A longtime concert favourite across Canada, and especially here in Atlantic Canada, the Irish Rovers have never been swayed by musical fads and trends, always staying true to its Irish roots. While Atlantic Canadians have been well acquainted with traditional Celtic and Irish music thanks to the music of Cape Breton and Newfoundland, the Irish Rovers have played a key role in helping popularize the genre across the rest of North America.

And even though 2015 will bring one chapter of the Irish Rovers’ long history to a close, George assures us that the group is not retiring. It will continue making music.

“It is just the major touring that we will be wrapping up,” he says. “It is the day-to-day touring that truly gets hard on the body as we get older. We will, however, still be planning shows and performing at corporate events. The decision to stop touring is not an end to the band — it is merely stopping the daily touring that we are doing.”

While George is looking forward to a more leisurely pace of life once he and the remaining Rovers hang up their touring hats post-2015, he admits that the decision is a bittersweet one.

“It really is tough. If you talk to anyone considering going into retirement, whether they are driving a bus or working in an office, it is hard to leave what you have done for so many years. For us, though, we are very spoiled in that we get to retire but are still able to continue doing what we love, which is performing.

“In a way, we are very blessed. That is not lost on any of us. We are given the opportunity to get on stage for two hours a night and entertaining our fans without whom we would not have been able to do this for the past 50 years.”

With a half-century of making music under their belts, the Rovers join a rather exclusive club with only a handful of bands — including the Rolling Stones — able to make the same claim.

Perhaps no one is more surprised at the Irish Rovers impressive longevity than George himself. Even through the significant changes that the music business has undergone over the course of the last 50 years, the group’s ability to rise above the fray and remain a concert draw is a rarity these days.

“We never expected such longevity to our careers. Perhaps no one was more surprised than us when ‘The Unicorn’ became a hit, which no one in their right mind would have done,” George says.

“To see us sandwiched on the charts between the Beatles and the Strawberry Alarm Clock was a little surreal. We weren’t necessarily the type of band that was made for the radio airwaves of North America and, as such, we assumed we would maybe get three or four years out of the song. But then ‘Wasn’t That A Party’ was a hit and then ‘Grandma Got Runover By A Reindeer’ hit. We weren’t necessarily trying for these things but they ultimately kept us going all of these years.”

And so with semi-retirement from music on the horizon, George’s plans are somewhat surprising: he and his wife of three years plan to travel the world.

“Travel is so much different when you are not on tour. Due to the various places you need to be on any given day, you just can’t relax when you are a part of a band on tour,” he says. “This will be an opportunity for my wife and me to travel the world without needing to keep an eye on when sound check is scheduled for. We will not be on anyone’s schedules other than our own.”

Article published in the October 23, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript

What: The Irish Rovers
When: Friday, Oct. 25, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 
 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets: Start at $35, plus service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone at 506-856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca.