The beauty of being very, very good at music is that you can win over people who really shouldn’t like your stuff.
That’s what Mick Foster found when Foster and Allen were booked to perform in Philadelphia, and thousands of fans turned up expecting heavy metal.
Instead, they got the duo’s much-loved mix of Irish dance, folk and traditional, and were surprised to find themselves enjoying it.
“Back in about 1982 or ’83, we were playing in Philadelphia on St Patrick’s Night,” says Mick. “They had an advert on a local radio station leading up to the concert, letting everyone know where and when we were playing.
“Trouble was, we didn’t realise it was a rock radio station, so the people who came to see us were expecting something very different! It was the weirdest show we’ve ever done.
“If it had been our usual audience and a rock band came on, they would have gone home. But funnily enough, after a wee while those people took to us, so it went OK after the initial shock!”
When you’ve done it as long as these guys – well over 40 years – it can be expected to go OK.
As accordion maestro Mick explains, it’s been going OK for far longer than the lads ever expected it to.
And, if touring is the best part, recording isn’t bad either – they have had more than 30 albums in the British charts, never mind the Irish charts, which is phenomenal for a band of their type.
“When we started touring, we only did Irish centres and pubs, and it was later that we did concerts everywhere else,” Mick explains.
“When we began, we were in our 20s and playing to people who were 40-plus.
“Our audience is still that age group, but because we’ve got a lot older it feels like we have a much younger audience! But wherever we go, they react to the songs in the same way.
“There are five of us on stage, with my wife Moyra playing keyboards, and it’s so important to us that our sound engineer on the road is also our sound engineer in the studio. He is able to get near enough the same sound everywhere.”
When he says “everywhere” Foster and Allen have performed in South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and just about everywhere else – and Mick reckons travelling such vast distances gets tougher through the years.
“It was special in the early days,” he admits, “but as you can imagine, going out to Australia for the 20th time, the novelty has worn off!
“Songs we had hits with, like A Bunch Of Thyme and Maggie, are the ones they always want to hear. We stopped doing certain songs because we thought people would be tired of them, but they weren’t happy!”
They know a good thing when they hear it.
You can catch the ever-popular Foster and Allen on their latest tour, which starts at Ayr’s Gaiety Theatre on March 13 and continues through England and Scotland until the end of the month.
For more info, visit the website www.fosterandallen.ie/live-dates