What can you say about an Irish band that’s been going strong in music and television for 56 years? Hopefully not goodbye, but they graced San Diego’s Balboa Theatre on the last leg of their US tour on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Crisp, clean and flawless, the Irish Rovers came on stage and played two sets of their classic Irish songs, interjecting humor and stories as well as songs from their recently released album “Up Among the Heather, The Scottish Album”. The 2019 leg of their Farewell to Rovin’ tour started in Billings, Montana on February 21st with dates still being announced as it’s expected to take a few years to complete.
After a brief stint in Canada, the International Ambassadors of Irish music, as called by many in the industry, will be honored in Northern Ireland by the Mayor of Mid & East Antrim for everything they have accomplished for Ireland and Irish music globally.
The Irish Rovers, named after the traditional song “The Irish Rover”, were founded in 1963 in Toronto, Canada by the Irish immigrants George Millar and the late Jimmy Ferguson, joined by George’s cousin Joe and George’s older brother Will in 1964. In 1966 they recorded their first album and performed on various North American television programs in the late 60’s. In the 80’s, they moved towards country-rock and renamed the band “The Rovers”, but changed it back a few years later to continue the Irish folk genre. In 1971 they had their own Canadian television series which ran for 7 years and won an ACTRA Award for Best Variety Performance. Their second TV series called “The Rovers Comedy House” started in 1981 and from 1984 to 1986 they had their third television series, “Party with the Rovers”. In 1993 the band formed their own record label and they continue to tour Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand with their current line-up of George Millar on vocals and guitar, Ian Millar on vocals and bass, Sean O’Driscoll on mandolin, banjo and push button accordion, Fred Graham on drums, Morris Crum on accordion, Geoffrey Kelly on flute, Davey Walker on keyboard and Gerry O’Connor on fiddle.
The house was filled with audience members from every age group, including children singing the words along with the band. Although the flute wasn’t present, it was not an obvious absence and the lads put on a great, engaging show. If you haven’t had a chance to see this band, you may want to hurry. Their touring days will soon be ending.