Saturday, December 1, 2012

Celtic Thunder Fall 2012 "Best Of" Tour

The boys are finally back in town!

After a year's wait, Celtic Thunder returned to the Seattle area this week for their Fall 2012 Voyage Tour. The past summer found the group recording a brand-new DVD (to be released Spring 2013) to usher in a new era of Celtic Thunder.  But, before that hits shelves and airwaves everywhere, they decided to perform this year's tour as a bit of a "Best of Celtic Thunder... so far" greatest hits tour.

It's billed as containing some of their most popular songs, voted on via a poll that Celtic Thunder conducted on their website earlier in the year. Audiences are told that the setlist is shaken up a bit each night to make it a new show for each performance.  And while the list of possible songs is definitely extensive, there was only one song change over the course of the two nights I attended... so take that with a grain of salt.

That aside, the show was truly fantastic. There was hardly a song in the show that I didn't love... or at least like a whole lot.

Some of the highlights of the evening were found in the show's signature ensemble numbers which showcase vocal power, exciting and beautiful harmonies, and in some cases, a whole lot of hamming it up. Heartland and Dulaman started the first and second acts and are classic powerful songs in Celtic Thunder's repertoire. They exude a fierce masculinity that is thrilling to watch and listen to. While Ireland's Call has begun to be Celtic Thunder's expected show-ending song over the past few years, it was Caledonia that was the original final song back in 2008.  They've brought it back for this tour, and oh, it was a welcome sound!

It's not all pomp and sobriety with this show, though.  At all. Fun ensembles also filled the stage in Galway Girl, Place in the Choir and Seven Drunken Nights. The antics these boys bring on stage, whether whistling at the violinist or line dancing (of sorts) across the stage, are hugely entertaining. One of the definite highlights of the night comes in the hilarious Seven Drunken Nights. This was introduced during last year's tour, but it gets funnier every time they perform it. Definite kudos to every member of the show for their part in hamming it up.

George Donaldson brings back a poignant ballad from the first tour in The Old Man. His warm vocals and personal connection to the song give it a special feeling.  He goes on to perform Harry Chapin's Cats in the Cradle and really gets the crowd to their feet in his version of 500 Miles. Everyone loves that song and you just can't keep people from standing up and clapping along.

Ryan Kelly takes the stage again and regales the crowd with some of his old favorites as well.  The popular Heartbreaker, which gave him the Dark Destroyer moniker in the first place, saw him breaking hearts right and left while his Ride On elicited screams of delight from the crowd. If nothing else, he is certainly an energetic performer! He also performs an audience-pleasing "Friends in Low Places."

Keith Harkin brings his guitar out in full force for his solos.  He performs All Day Long and Don't Forget About Me, both songs written by him personally.  The former is a fast-paced energetic song that was introduced on Celtic Thunder's tour last year, while the latter is a single off of his debut album. Over the course of the two nights I attended, he also performed numbers from earlier Celtic Thunder albums in Homes of Donegal and the very pretty Mountains of Mourne.  Keith has great guitar talent and it's fantastic to see him playing for each of these songs, as well as on the very popular Whiskey in the Jar, a duet he performs with fellow member, Neil.

Neil Byrne begins his repertoire by crooning out Billy Joel's Always a Woman with sweet tenderness. He takes the lead in Hallelujah, later joined by Ryan and Emmet to bring the song to a harmonically beautiful height. But, it's his version of Brown-Eyed Girl, brand-new to the show, that really lets him shine. This is a fun number that finds him dancing around the stage a little bit. It really plays to his particular talents and I really enjoyed it a lot.

Emmet Cahill is a young tenor who has just the most amazing voice. He begins the evening with a tender Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears, which is pretty... but just wait until you hear his emotional and powerful version of This is the Moment. His voice is gorgeous on this song. It is a great range for him, and I honestly could just sit there and listen to him sing it all day.  Running in direct counterpoint to the seriousness of both those, he also performs a very fun My Irish Molly-O. If you haven't fallen in love with him before this song, you will by the time he is through. He is truly adorable.

But, giving Emmet a run for his money in that department is the equally adorable Colm Keegan, the show's newest member. He sings a few of Damian McGinty's old numbers in Come by the Hills and Home, on which he plays piano accompaniment himself. He is really really sweet. I am delighted with his addition to the show and can't wait to see what they've prepared for him in the new show in the spring. He rounds out his solo repertoire with a lively and cheeky performance of the Black Velvet Band that is also a whole lot of fun. I would keep him if I could!

This "Best of" tour was definitely an enjoyable one! I loved it all, and nearly every song they sang had me thinking to myself, "This... THIS is why I love this show so much."

It was like... Well, it was like coming home.


  1. Hey!! I live near LA and I'm going to that last show!! I can't wait, after reading this review I know it's going to be just what I'd hoped for when I bought the tickets.

  2. I am sure from the lineup that you did have a great time. I certainly was entertained in Houston. The only regret being I didn't see the Heartbreaker sing Heartbreaker.

    1. It was really nice to see that again, it's been a long time. He's still funny.


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