Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Byrne and Kelly, "Live in Australia": An Irritated Review

This isn't really what I want to be writing. I love Neil and I love Ryan... I have followed them for years now and I love them truly. But I also promised myself, when I started writing about Celtic Thunder and related, that I would do it honestly. That I wouldn't sugarcoat and that I would be honest about what I thought.


So here I am, knee deep in irritation, pouring my thoughts out on paper - consequences be damned.


I don't keep myself as deeply into "the know" as I used to a few years ago. But I was pleased when I began to hear rumblings over the summer that there was talk of a new Byrne and Kelly album on the horizon. I really loved Acoustically Irish, and I was happy that another one would be coming soon. I really wasn't sure when they would have had time to record one, but sign me up.

Then it came out that it was a live album of their show that they had done in Australia.  I was less excited by that, but thought maybe there would have been enough changes in it since the last one I saw to make it worthwhile to me.

Then when the tracklist was finally released... I was the total opposite of excited.  Out of ten tracks, there were a grand total of two that I didn't already have on previous albums, and only one extra that I'd really be willing to pay for to have that version specifically.

Can we talk about that for a minute?

I am sure there are fans... and maybe lots of them... that are so thrilled with a live album of songs they already have that they can hardly help themselves.  I'm just really not one of them. To me, it's a cheater album. Celtic Thunder occasionally puts out new CD compilations that are all old tracks, with ONE new track thrown in. So if you want that one track, you have to shell out for the whole thing all over again.  It feels kind of like that.

I am SO HAPPY to buy new music from these guys. They bleed talent. They are wonderful singers. They blend beautifully. Their harmony is gorgeous. I am almost as happy to watch/listen to Neil play the guitar as I am about Brad Paisley. And if you know me at all, you know that's a LOT. But seriously, don't make me buy a filler album just because you've run out of beer money. It doesn't make me happy. It makes me feel used and taken advantage of.

*sigh*  Okay, let me talk about the things in the music that I actually like first.

Fields of Athenry. 
Beautiful Affair. 
On Raglan Road.  

All three of these tracks are beautiful. Lovely harmonies, touching and haunting deliveries. The guitar on Beautiful Affair is so pretty, I could listen to it for days. On Raglan Road is gorgeous, and the addition of Nicole Hudson's violin is perfect. And I like Fields of Athenry more and more, every time I hear it.

Course, I also already own them. So.

I'm glad to have Wagon Wheel in audio form finally, and Land Down Under is a really fun tune (more on that one in a second, maybe).

Ride On... oh Ride On.  This is the track on the album that I both love the most and hate the most. Let me explain.

The first time I saw Ryan and Neil in an Acoustic by Candlelight show, it was just the two of them making music. There was a strong reliance on Neil's stellar guitaring prowess to power up the musicality of the instrumentals.  I loved this. Neil is SO GOOD and I am delighted any time there is chance to watch him show off. When the guys started adding more instruments to their arrangements, I understood why and it sounded good too -- but I also missed some of the prominence of Neil's awesomeness.

That's the first part of why I love Ride On. The arrangement highlighting Neil's skills is so lovely. Ryan's vocal delivery is haunting, thoughtful, and beautiful. This will ever be a song I associate with Ryan, but ever since I first heard him do it, I have loved this version where he isn't so much Mr Sexpot but conveys something much different and far deeper.  And oh I have wanted this version in my hands for a long time.

But then there's the part that I hate. To anyone who's never been to one of Ryan and Neil's show, at the end of this song, the audience is invited to sing the chorus. And I hate it. Like... really hate it.  For some reason, Ryan thinks I have a plague that is communicable by eye contact, so he wouldn't know this.  But every time he invites the audience to join in, I glare eye daggers and throw imaginary darts at his head.  Sometimes they aren't imaginary.

So... to have it forever immortalized is awesome. (Note.... to the uninitiated, that's a little sarcasm.)

To the rest....  eh, I'm ambivalent.  There are things I don't like, but are generally small enough that it would just be nitpicky to bring them up.  Above all, it's the crowd noise that gets to me. To me, it is so distracting. So so so so distracting that I just stop enjoying the music and start swearing at the album instead..

I know. I know. It's a live album. Clearly, it's just not my shtick. I am so grumpy over it.

Look, I'll be back for the next real one, and hopefully with a less irritated attitude.

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