‘It’s so rugged and so beautiful’
For someone who grew up in a castle, it’s about time Chris de Burgh got around to doing an album about Robin Hood.
“The Legend of Robin Hood,” released in 2021, sprang out of a collaboration the Irish singer-songwriter undertook with the German musical company Spotlight Productions.
The show was a major hit in Fulda, Germany, where it drew audiences of more than 100,000 over 177 performances.
“Robin Hood is a character that everybody knows, but did he actually exist? Well, possibly not. But it’s an interesting story nonetheless,” de Burgh said in a phone interview recently.
He and his band were set to tour the album in Canada in 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic got in the way, so he waited a year.
He’ll be at the Mary Brown's Centre in St. John’s on April 3.
At 74, de Burgh is something of a legend in his own right.
His first album, “Far Beyond These Castle Walls,” came out in 1974, and he really hasn’t looked back.
Over the span of five decades, he has released 27 studio albums, not to mention live recordings and hit compilations.
He was already a household name around the world when his megahit, “Lady in Red,” came out in 1986, but he’s never been one to rest on his laurels.
He estimates he’s done 4,000 shows in more than 100 countries, including places he wouldn’t go back to now, such as Russia and Iran.
“It sounds like it was easy. It’s a very, very tough business. This was pre-internet. You just had to get out there and work,” he said, talking about his earlier success.
In the beginning, he’d often be the opening act for someone else.
“Sometimes you’d be humiliated and shouted at and told to get off the stage. You have to accept that,” he said.
Today, his music is still in demand, and he’s only too happy to perform it, including all the old hits.
“I’m a great admirer of sportsmen, and I feel so sorry for them being in the public eye, being treated like superheroes, for maybe eight to 10 years if they’re lucky, and then disappear into oblivion, a lot of them,” he said.
“My voice is in great shape. I’m still singing tracks like 'Ferryman' and 'Borderline' full belt, in the same key as I recorded it in 1982, which has got some very high notes in it.”
De Burgh may have lived in a castle, but he’s not exactly royalty — although he can trace his ancestry back to a lawmaker for King John and Richard I.
His grandfather bought the edifice, along with a surrounding farm, when de Burgh was about 12.
“There was no light, no water, no furniture, no heat. It was, to coin a phrase, f---ing cold. And this was Christmas,” he said.
After a lot of work, the family turned it into a hotel and farm, hosting guests from around the world during the summer.
“I had a guitar, and by the time I was about 15 or 16, I was getting reasonably competent to perform Irish ballads and hits of the day — Dylan, the Beatles and so on,” he said.
“Without that experience of hundreds of living room concerts, I certainly wouldn’t be doing what I do today.”
He believes in playing what people want to hear, including all the songs he’s played a million times, like “High on Emotion” and "Lady in Red.”
He laughs when he talks about a concert he once saw in Toronto.
“A friend of mine, Peter Gabriel, was performing, and I was really waiting for ‘Here Comes the Flood,’ with the amazing drum bang (on the chorus) … and he played it on the piano at the end. And I thought, 'Oh, come on, Peter. That doesn’t work. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be done.'”
De Burgh recorded his latest album at Gabriel’s rustic Real World Studio in Bath.
De Burgh first came to Newfoundland in the early 1980s when his big hits were songs like “Spanish Train” and “A Spaceman Came Travelling.”
He was immediately struck with the place.
“It’s so rugged and so beautiful,” he said.
“I remember the first time I went there — God, many years ago — I had to go to a local radio station just to prove I was on the island, because so many people would claim to be performing there, but the equipment never got there because the sea was too rough.”
He was last in the province in 2017. He and his wife of 46 years, Diane Davison, walked out to one of his favourite spots: Flatrock.
On his Facebook page, he’s posted a few pictures of icebergs, as well as St. John’s harbour and the Battery.
“I love the island. I love the people. I remember many times going to a bar … a really happening bar,” he said.
“I discovered a really warm-hearted people who are really happy to welcome foreigners and are delighted to have people like me come there and perform for them.”
Tickets for Chris de Burgh and band are available online at https://mbcentre.ca/event/chris-de-burgh-band/.
Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram