Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Thoughts on Celtic Thunder's "X" - a little review, a little diary

I sent that email to my mother-in-law in March of 2008 after watching Celtic Thunder on PBS for the first time... and I've been a fan of the show ever since. But like...a FAN, and then some. 

And it's been lovely.  Strange and consuming and dramatic, but honestly lovely. I have developed friendships and met lots of people, and enjoyed an ever-growing catalog of beautiful music between CT and its various offshoots of solo acts. It's been a source of joy for me for 10 years.

I loved their last DVD, "Mythology."  I still love it, and though it's been five years since its release, I still watch it once a month. Full of good music, powerful music. It's been a long time since its release, and I had sort of made peace with the idea that it would be the last one -- until recently when I heard they were filming a new one.

I was excited about that -- a new DVD to commemorate their 10th anniversary, and I looked forward to its release -- until I saw the preview reel they put out a few weeks back. I became a little bit unsure. It didn't really seem like my Celtic Thunder. I was left a little horror-struck by the cheese. Celtic Thunder is sometimes a little campy, but... this seemed extreme.

But... it was just the preview reel. I'd wait.

And now I've seen the whole thing - a few times though-- and I need to talk about it.

So, there are things I like...

I really feel like Damian is a bright spot in this show. He's engaging and endearing -- though I'll concede that my nostalgia is talking a little there. I've always liked Damian. His cover of Ed Sheeran's "Galway Girl" is actually really good. I've seen him do a few Sheeran songs in solo shows before, so I suspect he's a fan and that shows.  I also really liked his "L-O-V-E." That's not necessarily my favorite song in the world, but I think he does a good job with it.

I liked Neil's "The Streets of London" and the duet "From the Ground Up" that he does with Michael. I really like Neil when he is simple. He's really talented, and that shines best for me when it's not too dressed up.  And in a show that felt a bit frivolous, these numbers felt like a balm to my angst.

I liked Emmet's "Phil the Fluter's Ball." It's an empty song, a bit of fluff. But I do find it in my head when I'm at the grocery store, so I'm calling it a win.  I think it's supposed to be in the vein of The Spanish Lady, which I've always really enjoyed. I just don't like this one quite as much. I normally really adore Emmet, so I'm a bit bummed that I didn't love more.

I really liked Ryan's cover of Garth Brooks' "Much Too Young." I historically love his more "thoughtful" songs the best anyway, and this one fit the bill for that.  And it was something a little different from him, which always interests me. Really, I like all of Ryan's songs well enough. He has long been my favorite, and later became my friend - so I tend to like his solos in general. 

Michael, I am struggling a little bit with... which I'll talk about more in a bit.  But I think I like his "The Voice."

And then, for ensembles, I love "May the Road Rise to Meet You" and "Rise Again."  These are songs that are more serious in nature, have beautiful layered harmonies, and simple staging that lets the voices shine. I WISH THERE WERE MORE OF THESE SONGS IN THE SHOW. A billion times.  I also enjoy "Toora Loora Lay" and "Right All Right," with that upbeat Irish folksy feel to them. There are actually four of those in the first half, including Ryan and Company's "I Useta Lover," but I like those two the best.

There are things I'm ambivalent about...

I don't think these are awful or anything.. I'm just not in love with them for one reason or another, and don't expect them to show up on a list of favorites anytime soon.

Emmet's "On the Street Where You Live" and "The Crow on the Cradle." I suspect there will be a lot of people who rather like "On the Street," it's just not much my thing.

Neil's "Finnegan Wake." Man, I should like this more.  It's cute, it's simple. Neil is naturally comedic. But he does it in this odd voice/accent that irritates me.  I'd really really like to hear him sing it straight.  I'll concede my error if I'm wrong!

Michael.... ok, here's the thing. I am struggling with Michael, but I think it's a presentation thing, not a singing thing. I like him more on the CD than I do on the DVD.  I remember Sharon once telling me a long time ago about how they were trying to figure out how to make a new guy emote more, and I legitimately think this is where my disconnect with Michael comes in. I feel crappy about it... I have nothing against him and I want to like him more - but I need a little more passion to help me care.

Ensemble of "Seasons in the Sun." I feel like I should like this more... it's simple, it's the kind of song I would normally like. But I'm just sort of ho-hum with it.

There are things I would like to strangle, draw and quarter, and spear through the heart...

Please do not make my Celtic Thunder a cheesefest.  Don't do it. I hate it. I legitimately hate it.

That stuff in the preview reel that made me cringe?  Yeah.  Still cringe-y in full form.

Celebration. (Yes, that one.)
I'm a Believer.
Bye Bye Baby.

I'm looking at all of you.

I'm not going to say that the vocals on these are bad -- they're legitimately not.  But the utter cheeseball presentation of these numbers, from costume to choreography, bothered me so much that, for the first few days, I let them completely color how I felt about the whole entire show. My initial reactions that I sent to Ryan on these songs is just an endless ranting of me going "Why?  omg... Why?  What the crap??" These talented guys are worth more.


Not liking something my beloved Celtic Thunder has done sits uneasily with me. It makes me earnestly sad. I wanted to love this. And in the sea of reactions from fans who have little discernment anyway, it feels lonely. Like my dislike must mean that there's something wrong with me.

I've heard from enough people under-the-radar to know it's not just me...  but still. It's a little lonely to see people falling over themselves when I just feel a bit grieved. And perhaps more than anything, I feel like maybe I just don't belong here anymore and I'm not sure what to do with myself now.

I did eventually give myself an attitude adjustment and took in a little perspective. The songs I hate number 3. There are 28 in the show. We always tell our girls that they have a choice, in the attitude they decide to bring with them, in how much enjoyment they're going to get out of an event.  And that, if you go in with a good attitude, you might have a good time. But, if you go with a bad attitude, you'll definitely have a bad time.

I can take my own advice. I can enjoy the live show later this year.

I just might go back to watching Mythology again.

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