May 21, 2011
Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
Grand Prairie, TX USA
Review by William Meckfessel
Photos by Christopher Durst
The idea of spending my Saturday night not being raptured and attending a Celtic Woman show was not the most flattering thought that comes to mind, so in all honesty, I was cynical going into the show. However, I must admit it was better than I expected. After picking up my tickets at will call, I spotted a Jeep Grand Cherokee on fire in the parking lot. Clouds of black smoke blew up and the whole line watched in awe as metal and leather burned to a crisp and the Fire Department was called to the scene. My cynicism was crushed knowing that someone was spending their last day on Earth at a Celtic Woman concert worse off than me.
Celtic Woman’s lineup has changed noticeably over the past seven years. Initially a five-member group, it shrunk to four members with vocalists Chloe Agnew and Lisa Kelly, and violinist Mairead Nesbitt being the only original members left in the band. The group did not disappoint with the new lineup and surprised the audience consisting mostly of seniors and grandparents by performing Enya’s “Orinco Flow” and Sting’s “Fields of Gold”. In fact, they did a very good job covering those songs. Their version of “You Raise Me Up” gave the original a definite run for its money. The bagpipe intro to “Amazing Grace” was impressive, but only to be countered later on by a non-tenor version of “Danny Boy,” a song about sending a young son off to war. This was turned into breathy female vocals that took all power out of the classic tune. Despite these odd renditions, none of the songs were at all innovative or fresh, but undoubtedly a very pleasant listen for the gray haired audience.
Each member of the quartet, backed by a choir and band, was highly energized and had notable banter with those in attendance. You could tell the band was schmoozing those from the Lone Star state with lines such as, “Texas is always so wild, sometimes we think all of Texas is Irish.” And when introducing songs, witty quips and remarks were used like “Out of the love songs about seaweed, this one is my favorite,” that would receive polite clapping, some quick chuckles, but never amounted to any rowdy cheers of the Texas variety that were mentioned.
The performance in of it self was respectable, yet left much to be desired. Celtic Woman’s stage set up was highly theatrical, two drum sets raised with a staircase winding down, and kudos must be given to the person in control of the lights. The choreography that was accompanied with this was practice perfect and repetitive, as you were always likely to see the same dance move again within the next three songs. And Nesbitt’s stage presence was energetic, remarkable that one could play violin so well while running from one end of the stage to the other, and filled with complete emotion to the point where her movement conflicted with the music she played, bringing a slight awkwardness to the show. On top of all of this, not one member let themselves lose their smile while on stage, whether it was appropriate to the song or not. Cheerful in theory, yes, but creepy in reality.
This group came out several years ago to join the bandwagon of the Irish music craze that was sweeping this country thanks to bands like Riverdance and Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance. With over six million records sold worldwide, the experiment could have worked out worse. I may have gone to the show a cynic, but by the end of the night, these women deserved my respect, but not a purchase on my iTunes account. Is Celtic Woman for everybody? Definitely not. Nevertheless, even a skeptic, such as myself, will concede one could have a good time at a concert given by Celtic Woman. Unless, you drive a Grand Cherokee of course.