So, many of you are aware of my love for the show Celtic Thunder. Why? I think because the show lifts my spirits and gives me a measure of happiness. Who would think a group of young Irish men could cause so many people to hold them dear, but they do. If you think I am maybe a bit strange for posting pix of them on my cover of Facebook, trust me, there are people way way more "obsessed" than I am, but you know, all things considered, if these guys make their days happier, I say what's the harm? I think there is a preponderance of older widowed ladies who are made to feel young again by these guys. That they are gracious enough to sign autographs and pose for selfies with them, is just another reason why they are loved. Think about this though - they are my Yankees, my Jets, my Nicks, my golf obsession, get the picture? We think nothing of people who follow these sports, can name all the team members and their stats and miss family time because they are planted in front of the TV getting a "fix". Am I right? You know I am!
At any rate, this weekend I motored up to Rutland, Vermont to see the Very Best of Show. I have never reviewed the show and experience here, and I do tend to look at it from a performer's eye having been on that side of the boards in days past, so if my review is not how you saw the show, just know its okay for people to have differing ways of looking at things and responding to them! Several people who won't get to see this show asked for this, so here it is.
I got there early just to orient myself and had a chance to have a quick chat with Keith
I decided to do more than I usually do and got the meet and greet and VIP passes. I have already been to a sound check, so I didn't feel that was necessary. The meet and greet was set for 6pm. It was in a rather small room which not everyone could fit into, so the overflow was in a room next to it. PBS did apologize for such a small place, but I felt bad for those in the other room who basically had to stand and try to see over each other. They did supply water, coffee and tea...and a cash bar! I don't think anyone bothered with that. At about 6:30 Ryan and Emmett were ushered into the room by David Munro, the musical director, and we were allowed 10-15 minutes to ask questions. Then we stood in a line to get an autograph (which I didn't bother with) and a photo with them. Gone are the days of appetizer types of food, a good half hour or more with the guys and a chance to personally interact. For me, I wouldn't do it again unless I was a first timer. It was a lot of money for a very little bit of time. The one interesting tidbit that we learned was how Emmett, the first American born in the group, managed to find his way into Celtic Thunder. Apparently, David Munro was looking at you tube videos and found one of a master class by acclaimed mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato with Julliard student Emmett O'Hanlon. He called producer Sharon Browne and told her "we need to get this boy" - and they did! So for all you who think you tube uploads don't bring attention, I guess you would be wrong!
The theater was small by most standards, only sat a little over 800, but that meant my third row seat was really close as there was no orchestra pit. Gently the strains of Heartland started and in they came with the now famous black slickers. I have to admit the pounding of the drums certainly stirred my heart as the guys entered the stage one by one. I am not going to go every song they sang, but there were some I wanted to comment on. It was lovely to hear Damian singing with them again and those two years on Glee really made a difference in him vocally. He now has so much control of his instrument and sang with passion. His rendition of Buachaill on Eirne was beautiful. No longer was he the young lad just standing in place singing the song exactly as written, but a man giving his own interpretation of the song and doing it masterfully. Of course, we did get a "blast from the past" as he sang Breaking Up is Hard to Do, complete with leather jacket, skinny jeans and old fashioned mic. We all had a good time, and Damian, I love you, but dancing has never been your forte!
Colm had everyone singing Black Velvet Band pub style and made us tear up with Katie, sung simply, as he sat on a stool. Ryan sang Ride On which I have to say for me, has been done to death!
The poor guy sang it for at least 4 tours and I was so glad when he got to sing something new in Mythology. But, since the fans picked the songs for this tour, I guess not everyone feels as I do - I would rather have heard Brothers in Arms or Desperado. Neil sang Noreen and had everyone enjoying his "duel with Declan O'Donaghue on drums and John O'Brian on the bodhran.
I was really happy to hear Keith do Mountains of Mourne as it is one the songs that drew me to Celtic Thunder when I first saw them on PBS. Back then, his voice was lilting and almost pretty, now it has matured and it allows him to sing songs like Now We Are Free, which was something I almost wish I stood up and shouted Bravo! to - it was that good.
Emmett belongs onstage at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, plain and simple.His voice is way too big and doesn't seem to mesh well with the others. It may have been the acoustics in such a small venue, and it wasn't too bad when all six were singing, but during That's a Woman, he effectively drowned Ryan out each time they were counter singing. I didn't like his Danny Boy. That just belongs to Emmet Cahill. It's funny how two people can have essentially the same range and be classically trained but have such a different sound depending on the timbre of their voice. Emmet Cahill sang it with almost a reverence and beauty and Emmett O'Hanlon had vocals that were just too "bright" for this song. I noticed on the cruise he had to hold his mike about 12" away when he sang with the others, maybe some sound board adjustments will help next tour.
He is amiable like the others, has great stage presence and fits well with their overall "messing about" during some songs, but when he sang Recuerde Me, he was in his wheelhouse! Here, he could sing with abandon and fill all the spaces and it was amazing.
Of course George Donaldson was greatly missed and the guys did a lovely tribute of his song Life with You along with a funny anecdote by Neil about his less than stellar dancing abilities. White roses were raised by many at the end of the song.
One cannot go to a Celtic Thunder show without appreciating the fun songs they do, and the other night was no exception. I have to say Neil has the most impeccable sense of comedic timing. His drunken man in Seven Drunken Nights had everyone roaring with laughter! It was nice to see a little change-up with Emmett starting the song and Keith ending. About mid song things got a little crazy - every year they seem to ramp up the clowning on this song and at one point Ryan was pretty much writhing on the ground in front of Neil's shoes while Damian was trying to close his body over them - he fell and Emmett starting kicking his kneecap and maybe just hit it a touch to strong and Damian let out a facial yowl! He moved his leg to try to keep it from getting hit again but was having a heck of a time holding his pose as they all had frozen when the audience started laughing. Emmet bent down and pretended to wipe the sweat off Damian's brow and then they all lost it - Celtic Thunder at its best! They also got into it during Place in the Choir. Damian was singing the bass part and they all went and sat down on the edge of the riser. He went back to join them and they wouldn't let him in - lots of shoving ensued until finally Emmet fell off the riser. Ryan fell backwards and came up laughing so hard he could barely sing. These are the moments many of us wait for.
Finally the show was over and we waited by the stage to be picked up for the VIP experience.
There weren't a lot of us waiting, so it was pretty intimate. I am sitting in the front row for this one. Instead of us asking them questions, they turned the tables and asked us trivia questions about themselves. If you knew the answer you got a drink cozy with Celtic Thunder on it. There were some I didn't have a clue about and one in particular where I thought, oh my gosh Linda, you spend entirely too much time on the internet! I won twice, so I gave my second one to the gal next to me - then things just started getting funny when a lady started mugging in the doorway just as Keith was reading his question -I started laughing out loud and others joined me and for just a split second Keith looked a little annoyed that we were laughing at him - then he turned around and realized why. As with the meet and greet, it was only 10-15 minutes long and then there was a photo op. You also received a rubber band bracelet and a signed program, so that was nice. David Munro had us sign a large banner - I have no idea what they plan to do with it though. Would I do it again? No, an awful lot of money for a very short experience. That being said, I do see other celebs charge 3-4 times what Celtic Thunder charges, so in that respect, you could call it a deal. I think maybe because I have been fortunate to meet them so many times, its just not important enough to me. I don't need more autographs, and I won't die if I don't get a photo with them. They still are pretty good to the die hard fans who wait by their bus till late at night to stop for an autograph or photo. If I were to pick a place to spend my money, I think it would be for the sound check. Although you don't get to speak with them or have a photo op, its usually 30-45 minutes long and you can take as many pictures as you like - just my humble opinion. Here is a little video of the VIP experience:
It's funny, as good a time as I had, I think my thunderhead days may be drawing to a close. Will I see thee next show? I don't know..probably, but nothing extra. I think the reason I got so deeply invested was that I was pretty much house bound due to my knee problems and now that I am up and running, I find I have less and less time to spend on Facebook, the Celtic Thunder groups and the internet in general. I am so grateful they were there during that time - it surely gave my life a lift and brought a smile to my face. I truly hope they can "keep on rolling" a few more years. The average life span of a group is ten years and they are already at around eight with several changes in the lineup. I think Sharon Browne, the producer has an incredible eye for not only talent but eye candy too, which has served her well! I hope all the "lads" will be able to continue their respective careers afterwards and for a long time to come.
When I got home, I found Keith had finally announced his engagement to Kelsey Nichols. It was nice to hear he had found his special someone and I wish them all the blessings life has to offer!