The Celtic have a tradition as storytellers — and Canadian Celtic-Rock band Enter the Haggis emulate this skill as they take the stage last Friday night at the Historic Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda, N.Y.
“This song has always been kind of an obituary,” singer Brian Buchanan says as he introduces, “The Flood,” one of the band’s newest songs from their C.D. “Whitelake.”
“This song is not about drowning,” Buchanan says ironically; he almost drowned when canoeing after recording this song. “The cheerful note of the story is that I don’t die,” he says.
To this, an audience member cheers.
“The Flood” starts off slow, it’s haunting and somber melody flooding the theatre as Buchanan sings about trying not to drown amid the flood of “commitments and careers.”
“It’s easy to not be afraid and simply close our eyes as we watch the water rise,” he sings.
In a way, these lyrics reflect the story of the band, who decided to do the not easy thing of leaving their record label to record “Whitelake” independently. The stories, like “The Flood,” are more personal, and the overall C.D. sounds more rock, blues and country than the Celtic flavor that riveted fans.
Despite going in a new direction that might disappoint some, Enter the Haggis continues to tell the stories that supported them. These stories included “Noteworthy and Piercy,” which Buchanan describes as the true story of two fisherman from Newfoundland; “The Death of Johnny Mooring”; “One Last Drink”; “Lanigan’s Ball”; “Down with the Ship”; and…
“Gasoline,” someone shouts from the orchestra.
“Where?” Buchanan asks, looking around comically.
Dutifully, Enter the Haggis plays “Gasoline” during their second set, followed by newer songs such as “Whistleblower,” which is about an ex-child soldier returning home; and “Devil’s Son,” which Buchanan describes as the “happy song about Mark Madoff’s suicide.”
The eclectic blend of both older and newer songs and styles only added to the energy of the theatre as Craig Downie virtuosoly juggled among trumpet to bagpipes to harmonica to vocals and Brian traded time among fiddle, keyboard, guitar and microphone. As depressing as the lyrics to Stan Rogers’ “White Squall” might be, the lighthearted banter between the band and the audience raised spirits.
“There’s a bar, you know,” Downie says as he raises a pint of Guinness to his lips.
Later Downie becomes fascinated by a chandelier hanging from the ceiling of the Riviera Theatre, and begins singing from “Phantom of the Opera.”
“You know, when he sings, that chandelier falls, right?” Buchanan quips.
This playful, tongue-in-cheek banter continues as Craig narrates Phantom, calling, “Christine, Christine.”
“The crowd’s yelling for Lady Gaga,” says Buchanan. “Or Andrew Lloyd Beiber.”
In reality though, the crowd was yelling for Enter the Haggis, standing and cheering until the band returned. Unplugged from their amps, the five members of the band lined up at the front of the stage and began singing, “Cameos.”
“The story’s told, the credits roll, the lights are up, it’s time to go,” chimed the voices of Buchanan, Downie, Trever Lewington, Mark Abraham and Bruce McCarthy.
“This is a beautiful, beautiful theatre and we’d love to come back someday,” Buchanan says.
With the success of “Whitelake,” Enter the Haggis will be recording another indie album in October.