Sunday, September 16, 2012

Celtic Thunder: The Show DVD Review

Celtic Thunder, international phenomenon (as my husband likes to joke), exploded into my life March of 2008 with their first DVD/PBS Special, The Show.

But what was/is so great about it?

At it's basest... cute guys with fantastic voices and Irish/Scottish accents.  What's not to like?  But, it's more than that.

As they will be the quickest to insist, Celtic Thunder is not a boyband.  They are five soloists who auditioned to be a part of this show.  Each of them brings something very different to the table, which I've come to realize is part of the genius of the show.  Five very different soloists, both in age and style.  One is a melodic folk singer. Another is a classically trained Irish tenor.  Another is steeped in musical theater talent, another a gifted songwriter.  All topped off with an adorable young teenager with a voice too big to be coming out of such a young boy.  Here's the thing...  If you don't like the style of one?  There are four others there to tickle your ear.  When they aren't soloing, they're coming together in ensemble songs that are replete with intricate harmonies.

The Show was their first DVD, and while they have improved in many ways since their debut four years ago, it is still their debut DVD that I find to be the most fitting introduction to Celtic Thunder.  It is with this DVD that I always tell new fans... "This is what you should watch first."  Is it their best?  I don't know.  But, it is the one that most tugs at my heart, most says "you want to be a part of this," and most makes me stop all else so I can listen.

Group Songs

The ensemble songs are almost always my favorite.  It's the blend, folks.  The blend and the harmonies are amazing. Heartland is incredible.  It's haunting and a little menacing, and the black trenchcoat wardrobe lends an air of mystery.  But, it's the harmonies and the power behind them that made me wheedle my husband into handing over the remote on the first night I ever saw them. Caledonia is probably my favorite ensemble song they've ever done. Dressed in classy kilts, this song just puts my heart in my throat. Beautifully done.

Ireland's Call is a fun song that's become a big fan favorite. This performance in particular is full of smiles and fancy choreography.  Ok, I lied on the fancy choreography.  But they do have a routine of sorts. Of special note is Mull of Kintrye. The harmonies are not as complex on this one, but it's fun to watch George attempt to navigate his way down the stairs after the guy operating the fog machine apparently went to sleep.

George Donaldson

George is a longtime folk singer, the lone member from Scotland, and has a mellow voice that you want to wrap around you like butter.  If you like to wrap yourself in butter.  That's exactly the wrong metaphor.  This first DVD probably actually under-utilizes George's talents in a lot of beautiful ballads. You don't really get to see his flair with an upbeat song until later productions. My particular favorite is My Boy. It's not the happiest of songs, but he sings it really beautifully and always hits me right in my heart. The Old Man has always been a fan favorite with a really poignant ballad, and Yesterday's Men comes close to hinting of George's more vibrant persona.

Ryan Kelly

Ryan comes to Celtic Thunder from a village in Northern Ireland and showcases a flair for musical theater.  He always shines the most when he has a song that he can really act out and bring to life. Heartbreaker is one of the best examples of this, really giving Ryan the opportunity to shine as a singer/actor in this role as a "player" innocent only in his own mind. In a rare contrast to that, his performance of Brothers in Arms is one that has always been my particular favorite and nearly brings me to tears. It's beautifully sung and emoted.  Ryan also brings a sweet sadness to the well-known Eagles hit, Desperado.

Paul Byrom

Paul is a well-trained Irish tenor who consistently brings to life the epitome of the romantic male lead. He is handsome and tender and possesses the ability to sweep you off your feet with a rise of the eyebrow. Remember Me (Recuerdame) is possibly one of the most beautiful of his solo pieces, romantic and poignant. Paul brings a similar tenderness to She, making you want to curl up in his lap and pet his head after his heartbreak. He joins with Ryan in a powerful duet, That's a Woman, where Paul's romantic lead faces off against Ryan's rogue.  It's nearly impossible to not fall in love with Paul, and I've never been able to figure out how Ryan enunciates as quickly as he does in this song. If you like Broadway-style interaction, don't miss this one.

Keith Harkin

Keith comes to Celtic Thunder with incredible vocal talent, instrumental expertise, and the beginnings of strong songwriting skills. His voice is most entrancing in The Island, a sad but beautifully performed song, and The Mountains of Mourne. Anything where the lilt of his accent really shines through his singing is beautiful, and the latter tune does a great job of highlighting his skills with a guitar. Lauren and I is his first self-written piece to be performed in a Celtic Thunder show, and gives a hint of the talent yet to be developed.

Damian McGinty

Damian is so young. Just 14 years old when this DVD was filmed, the voice that comes out of him is amazing, especially given his young age.  The first time I saw him, I was convinced that he was lip syncing to some other person's voice for a few songs until I finally admitted, "No. That's really him. Incredible." He is sweet and engaging and adorable. Damian sings a simply beautiful rendition of Bird Without Wings, with George. He goes on to bring a smile to everyone's face when he sings and dances (kinda) his way through Puppy Love. Adorable.  Absolutely adorable.  Every girl under the age of 16 just falls in love with him.


A few extra things...  As with every Celtic Thunder DVD, this one includes an instrumental with Cal/Local Hero, which shows off the talent of a Mr Neil Byrne.  A couple years down the road, Neil will move up to the front and become a principle singer with Celtic Thunder. But, here, he simply performs on guitar.  Amazing talent that, I think, could only possibly be rivalled by Keith.  I'd love to see them both in a duet that allows them both to play intricately.

This DVD also includes a substantial bonus feature section with tons of interviews with the five main guys, both as a group and individually.  These are really interesting to watch, before any of them really had any taste of fame.  Just sweet excited young performers.  Good luck, too, with listening to Damian and George. This is before any of them spent much time in America and their accents are thick!!!


  1. Great review of that first, very special dvd. You have captured them all so well. They steal your heart in this show, and in my case, they still have it! It was magical, starting with the powerful Heartland. I remember my first show that Fall, and the excitement when Heartland began.....nothing has ever topped that. I watched the dvd of The Show this week.....I don't think I had seen it in at least a year. I thought it would be fun to play while I cooked....well, I kept running into the room to watch it, so the cooking took a long time! I am thinking maybe a marathon of CT dvds might be in order soon....I hear it may rain one day this week.....what better to do??

    1. My favorite was the first run (the Spring one) of the Take Me Home tour... but I think that might have something to do with the fact that it was my first show that I had seats up close. I saw three shows during the first tour, but the seats weren't great at any of them. But that TMH tour had a lot of George flirting in the front row! But I also was a really big fan of that setlist... My favorite was always the Ryan/Paul/Zara storyline and I loved the way they played it during that tour. They changed it after that, and I was always a little put out! :)


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