500 Miles: The Distance I Would Walk to See The Proclaimers Perform
Photo Credit: The Newspaper
Despite being a band that most Canadians only know for their hit “500 Miles”, The Proclaimers have a large Scottish following. Some of whom them gathered to celebrate their concert at the Danforth Music Hall this past week. The band itself, made up of two twin brothers has an iconic sound: a blend of Scottish pop and vocally complex folk music, that also incorporates choral arrangements and a cappella aspects.
The opener for the evening, Siobhan Wilson, set the stage, proclaiming to the audience, “Welcome to the Scottish Invasion!”. Wilson’s accent was a strong Scottish brogue that made half the audience members struggle to decipher her pronunciations. But her accent disappeared when she sang songs like “Whatever Helps” and “Dark Matter”. Instead, the purity of her voice contrasted with the grungy guitar, and created a pleasant dissonance.
The Proclaimers started with their new song, “Angry Cyclist”,. But once they launched into “Over and Done With”, the audience was hooked into the energy of the evening. It was obvious from this point on that most of the concert-goers were fans of their music beyond “500 Miles” but they still felt most comfortable with the older material like “Let’s Get Married” & “Sky Takes the Soul”. With “Letter From America” in particular, the audience shouted out the line “from Westeros to Nova Scotia” with a huge degree of Canadian pride.
The experience of seeing them in concert is different to simply listening to their albums. The vocal harmonies were often simplified and less vocally challenging, usually opting for the lower notes whenever possible. But despite the difference, songs like “I’m On My Way” and “Should’ve Been Loved” still retained their electric energy. The relationship between the two brothers is what makes these vocals even more compelling as it’s often difficult to tell who is singing which harmonic line even when they’re on stage immediately in front of you.
The best part of the concert itself was the audience. It was a concert where fans truly appreciated the music, and knew it regardless of the difficult lyrics in songs like the tongue-twisting “Then I Met You”. “Sunshine on Leith” provided a particularly touching moment as the entire audience sang along with a sense of communal mourning, practically drowning out the band itself. This sadness was quickly replaced by the over-enthusiastic sing-along “I’m On My Way” (which some may know from Shrek). Of course, when “500 Miles” came on, the audience went wild and started jumping as soon as the opening chords played.
The Proclaimers are often an underestimated band, but for the dedicated fans seeing them live is akin to going to worship: you leave with a sense of exaltation you didn’t feel when you went in. From the beginning of the concert to the end where the crowd chanted for on encore in which they played “Make My Heart Fly", they perfectly understood the audience’s desire for them to “stay [onstage] and make [our] hearts fly”.