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Author Topic: Celtic Thunder Review - Sept 29 - Pittsburgh  (Read 2250 times)
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« on: October 01, 2010, 07:18:30 AM »

Celtic Thunder - Sept. 29, 2010 - Benedum Center Pittsburgh

   I had seen Celtic Thunder’s shows aired on PBS, but tonight I finally got to see their live show entitled “Its Entertainment”. And it was…entertaining! I have some positive comments as well as some ideas on areas they can improve on. It was certainly a show worth seeing. Plus other things like the trip to the venue, the venue itself, the audience, etc also added to the night, even though they certainly aren’t part of CT’s show.
   I did not plan on attending the CT show this year. I have already been to many concerts and spent a fair amount of money doing so. Plus I can’t afford to pledge PBS any more this year. But I am really getting hooked on attending concerts. Lots of fun. So as the concert date approached, more and more the thought of going kept popping into my head.
   My interest in the group started a while back. Since I am a BIG fan of Celtic Woman and there have been very strong connections between the 2 groups. Also, it’s a bit funny, because when I attended the CW show in Toledo last year, I ended up sitting next to one of the PBS staff. She asked me “Did you see Celtic Thunder when they were in Pittsburgh?” My response “No, on the night they were in town, I was in Akron watching THEM!” as I pointed to the CW stage, unoccupied during the intermission.
   And on the topic of PBS staff. I had also hoped to bump into Pittsburgh’s PBS people at this CT show. A while back I e-mailed them to see if they planned to pick up the Orla Fallon Celtic Christmas concert. They never got back to me. That is very strange. In past communications with them, they have always been good about returning e-mails or calls.
   So I decide to go. I check the internet to see if it’s a sell out. Its not. So I can get a ticket. Its in town, so no travel or hotel expense on this one! I also check out the CT fan forum to see whats there, and if their fans attending the show are having a pre-concert meal like we CW fans often have before a CW show. Sure enough they are meeting at Olive or Twist, a place about a block away from the concert venue, the Benedum.
   Then I started to second guess myself. Should I go to this? I am not a member of their forum. Those people don’t know me at all. In fact, I don’t know if you can even call me a Celtic Thunder fan. I find the group interesting, but really all I had seen at that point were the PBS airings. Plus it seems a lot of ladies are fans, and I would think that it was a high probability that those attending the meal were female. Would they be a bit nervous if a creepy guy like me suddenly showed up out of no where, said “I found you via your forum posts”, and sat down with them? Of course one could argue the other way too. Its nice to be social and to meet new friends. No one should be a hermit! Plus it was all posted on a public forum. I didn’t even have to join up to read it. Is a post on a public forum an invitation for ALL to come?  But, since I am more on the shy side, and didn’t want to crash what could be considered a party that I wasn’t invited to, I passed on attending. But I would appreciate getting the thoughts of others concerning fan forum etiquette on this type of thing.  Could make for a good discussion!
   So, I got on a city bus for the approx. 15-20 minute bus ride downtown, then it’s a short walk to the ticket office and venue. Oh, but things can’t be THAT easy. Traffic was an absolute mess, even by Pittsburgh standards. At one intersection, cars were held up because pedestrians walked slow through the intersection. The delayed cars ran the light as quick as they could even though it had changed, but the bus was too far back and had to stop and wait it out. The driver went postal. Opened the bus door and yelled at those folks who just crossed the street. “Just take your time, think of only yourselves. Don’t worry about others “ sort of stuff. It had been a while since I saw a driver snap like that. But in an interesting irony, when I was on my way to my very first Celtic Woman concert, at the Benedum in 2007, my bus also had a problem. Engine overheated and we had to get off and transfer to another bus.
   I arrive near the venue and quickly head to the ticket office. An elderly lady is ahead of me in the hallway and beats me to the ticket window. AH-oh. She left her ticket at home. So they looked it up on computer and it seemed they printed her another. Then she wanted to purchase another ticket for CT, but needed to decide what price to pay and where to sit. Then she wanted to purchase tickets for additional different shows. YIKES! Fortunately, another employee saw what was happening and opened another window to get me taken care of. So I ask him what seat could I get for Celtic Thunder, expecting the nosebleed section since its only one hour before showtime. Well, guess what? How about dead center, 6th row! WOOO-WHOOO! I said “AH man, how cool is that! 6th row center an hour before the show!” As it turns out, the guy who sat next to me at the show did the same thing. Bought a ticket last minute and lucked out big time. And at roughly only half the cost of a PBS pledge.
   So, seemed my luck was looking a lot better. The time came to enter the Benedum. What a big mess! They always put the merchandise table right in the center of the very small lobby. It jams all traffic. Doesn’t matter where you try to go. So I fought my way through to head downstairs to the restroom. Then I came back up and got in line, well, do you call it a line? More like a mob around the table. The young lady, perhaps 15,  in front of me couldn’t stop saying “I am SO excited, I LOVE Celtic Thunder!” They had posters of Damian on the table there and she ran her finger along his cheek. I thought…AH-oh! I hope there wont be hundreds of screaming teenage girls in attendance.
   I bought a program and tried to head on in. It would have been so much easier if they had someone set aside to sell programs apart from the merchandise table, instead of making those 4 overworked people at the table try to sell everything to so many customers at once. Anyway, I didn’t get far as I tried to enter the seating area. Looked like they didn’t open the doors between the second lobby area and the seats until 7pm. That backlogged everyone. Hundreds of people in 2 small lobby areas. What a BIG mess. Finally, I get in and get to my seat. And guess what?
   First, I say “Thank you Lord for 6th row center!” Great seat, esp. for last minute ticket buying. Then, I look behind me. 3 young ladies, perhaps 20 , and they looked like screamers. My intuition turned out to be correct on that. Then I look in front of me. A young and restless 5 yr old boy, whose Grandma was sitting to his left holding his 3 yr old brother. I think the lady to his right was Mom. Anyway, he seemed full of energy. He wasn’t about to sit still. Then it got even more interesting. One of the young ladies in back of me taps my shoulder and says “Can you get the little boy in front of you to turn around, I want to give him these glowsticks” GLOWSTICKS!?  What the %#@$? So I tap Mom’s shoulder and also say “HEY” and the boy turns, and the young lady says “Hey you want these glowsticks?” and his eyes widen in excitement about as far as they physically could and he smiles and yells “YES!” You would have thought he just hit the million dollar lottery! So now I got a little kid in front of me with bright shiny sticks to hold up into my line of view!
   The Benedum was nearly full. There were a few empty seats. No sell out. But a very nice crowd. No shortage of clapping or crowd noise. Or young girl screaming. It does seem that a fair percentage of CT fans fall in the young lady demographic. Even CT’s George, a 40 year old bald man, got some screams. Maybe theres hope for us 40+ bald guys? Of course we also had the usual older PBS performing arts types too. It was different though from other concerts that I have attended. I have seen glowsticks before, but never at performing arts type venues.
   CT’s first act stage looked a bit like a hill. Brown steps in front with some type of stone looking image on the sides, with a green carpet like thing on top. The band was on top of it. Neil was on the left, then the drummer, then the whistle player, then the 3 ladies (cello, fiddle, then harp), then the keyboard player. Before I go further, let me say that the musicians were awesome and get an A+. Very impressive. Many played different instruments. They also had a screen backdrop with a hill kind of pattern on it.
   Fog crept out over the stage, and the show began with Heartland . Very well done. Show was off and running. And we saw that Keith had a new hair style (was it even him? Hahaha he looks WAY different) and Neil had shaved off that little beard thing he had under his lip. Then it was Damian with Buachail On Eirne and Keith with The Dutchman. These songs seemed a bit flat.  But I saw a silver lining in that. The little boys sitting in front of me seemed to suddenly be tired. Those glowsticks seemed to disappear. There were other people who also had them, and they too seemed to put them down. They were no issue the rest of the concert. The young ladies screaming also toned it down a bit, though that never completely ended. But it dropped to an acceptable level, in my opinion. Though the elderly lady sitting to my right would strongly differ on that!
   Then Ryan sang Black is the Colour and things started to pick up. The lady fiddler stood and came down to be with him in front. They had great chemistry. In fact, both had excellent nights. Great performances!
   Then all 5 guys sang Home from the Sea. I thought they may have had a sound problem here. Paul’s voice didn’t seem loud enough, and another, I think Ryan, sounded too loud, and it seemed they adjusted it in mid-verse. So it suddenly seemed to be lower volume. At least that’s how I heard it. One of the young ladies played concertina on this song. Paul & Damian then sang a duet, then the band played the Belfast Polka. The keyboard guy enjoyed this song ! He had fun with it, sort of danced in a funny way.  Neil then did a nice job with a solo called Noirin Mo Stoirin , followed by George with Skye Boat Song. The whistle guy had disappeared from stage then later reappeared on one side of the stage with…bagpipes. Hmmmm…a bagpiper suddenly appears from a surprise location. Have we seen that somewhere before? This song also had the young lady play the concertina again.
   After a Paul solo, Keith and Neil performed a very interesting duet called Whiskey in the Jar. They both jammed on guitars on this very fast and upbeat song. The crowd was certainly into it big time. So were the ladies in their band. I spotted the fiddler mouthing the lyrics along with the guys singing as she awaited her part. All the ladies were swaying around on various songs too. Lots of smiles. At the end of this song, some lucky fan in the front row got Keith’s guitar pick after he tossed what will certainly be a treasured souvenir  into the crowd. Seemed tough to find it on the floor in the dark, but I am sure someone did. Maybe the glowsticks were actually useful!
   All 6 guys then performed  A Place in the Choir, the last song of Act I. They sort of did line dance type moves, like country dancing. I thought it was fun and interesting, but I bet some thought it was silly. I think it was one of those things you love or hate. It was certainly different and unexpected. Then something happened that didn’t surprise me…NO standing ovation at the end of Act I, though most performers would get that at such a time. I had seen this in Pittsburgh before. (don’t worry. At the end of the show they got 2 or 3 standing Os.) But as they walked off, I noticed one of the guys move his arms in a “whats up with that?” sort of way. Was he saying “why didn’t they give us a standing O?” No way to know for sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all.
   At intermission they changed the stage for Act II. It became the familiar set seen on the PBS pledge special. A water fountain / pool on the left, a park bench on the right, and a , what to call it, gazebo kind of thing in the middle.
   Act II started on a high note with Take me Home. Very well done. Much of Act II was just like the PBS special. Damian Standing on the Corner, Paul Do Whacka Do, Keith with the Surfer Medley, where  another lucky fan got a tossed guitar pick. I thought those songs went well. But I also thought a number of Act II songs seemed a bit flat. But that’s just my opinion. Many would argue otherwise. They have Danny Boy on the set list in the program, but they did not perform it. But 2 songs really highlighted Act II.
   First, the band played Appalachian Roundup. Very well done. They even had a bit of a surprise. They put 3 drums on a sort of framework for Neil, and the whistle player had a bodhram. So at one point they had 3 drummers ready to rock! The drum ‘battle’ began! So cool! But then, as fast as it started, it ended! Such a great idea, and it didn’t reach its full potential. Of course I can think of at least 1 reason. I guess you can only afford to train non-drummers so much drumming. But when I first saw this, I thought lights would be flashing, they would be taking turns playing various parts and responding and, well, sort of calling each other. Still, very well done.
   Second, the final song, Ireland’s Call. If you think it rocked while watching it on tv on the PBS show, you should see it live. WOW! The person sitting front row center was waving a tiny Irish flag. Everyone was cheering or singing along.
   Overall it was a very entertaining show. Well worth seeing. Although there were some inspirational / meaning type songs, I thought the show could use more. I could have sworn Paul sang You Raise me Up on the PBS show, and he did a fine job. I was hoping to hear it. Also, Danny Boy would be good to add to the set list (and actually do). Also, the show could use a female voice. CT did not have a singing female live as they did on the PBS special.  I look forward to Deirdre Shannon’s upcoming participation and contributions to the group. Also, the show, with the guys, seems a bit too much aimed at females, and the addition of a female or 2 would be good for us guys. Note though that I do think they use the female musicians in the right way. I don’t know if I would want to see them change that.
   But this gets me thinking about gender bias in these performances.  One of our Celtic Woman fan forum friends once told me that he doesn’t like male vocalists. And I must honestly admit that I strongly favor female singers. Lynn Hilary could be singing the theme to Cops or Dog the Bounty Hunter and it would still make me melt. So I can’t say much about the lady fans showing such strong support for the guys of CT. But, I also think it goes way beyond just some type of appearance or subconscious sexual thing. I have noted how many women love and respect CW’s Lisa because she is a super talented, beautiful, successful working Mum, a “she-ro” and role model to young women. Many older guys also seem to take the view that “if I had a daughter, I would hope she could be like Lisa” So, perhaps some ladies there at the CT show also may have thought of the CT guys like brothers or sons? Also, of course, some people just like the music or the performance. No other factors involved.  I don‘t know. Maybe I should stop thinking about this sort of stuff and just enjoy the performances?
   Some final notes on the CT program. First, it looks a lot like CW’s. Second, it includes 2 set lists, one for It’s Entertainment and one for Christmas. So, looks like this program pulls double duty for the 2 shows. The Christmas set list looks like it will be a great show. It includes Amazing Grace. I am really looking forward to hearing CT’s performance of this song. In Paul’s section, some past performances at sports events are listed and one reads like this…”and a Pittsburgh Steelers American Football Game at Heinz Field in the US.” Kudos to the Pittsburgh connection and reference. Did you know that Ryan is a qualified Chartered Accountant? That George is married and has a daughter? Some interesting things in the bios. Also, it gives small bios for the band members. The keyboard player is also the musical director, and part of his small bio reads “His career began just before the invention of the wheel and Dave has done so much in his career that there’s not enough room to write it down here, so we won’t bother.” That’s kind of funny but I thought they could have put down something he has done, even if its not a complete list. Just a highlight or 2. But it’s a good program and only cost $15 instead of the $20 that seems to be the standard cost of a concert program these days.
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« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2010, 11:35:14 AM »

Wow, nice! I'm glad you attended a CT show as you write plenty of detail to help the reader. Your bus driver started it off on an interesting note! As for forum dinner. If their fans are anything like us here then you probably could have struck up a conversation and they would have invited you to join them. Yes, it seems CT is strongly slewed to female fans especially due to the young heartthrob. Funny you should mention glow sticks. Someone was selling those along with other light toys at Red Rocks. Rachel came up and asked him if he was authorized by the venue to sell those and it seems he was. OK folks this isn't the circus or the fair. Those things are incredibly distracting. And who brings a five year old to a two hour concert? I actually saw that at Riverdance in Dublin and the boy wound up having to be removed by a parent. The show sounds fine but I think I'll wait until Deirdre joins them. Until then if i want to see a male Irish group I'll stick to The High Kings. At least I know those guys. I will say though that sixth row center at that price is a great bargain regardless and even I would have jumped on that. I have a feeling I'd have been distracted by their fiddler, though, and making comparisons all night.

An fidléir's mínealaíne i sprite iomlán sin
Guardian of the fiddle realm
Posts: 757

Creation comes from within

« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2010, 12:54:10 PM »

Well I'm a female teen and not that attracted to CT.. they have good voices and some enjoyable songs, but would never go see them in concert. Their way of performing and production are way over the top for me. I prefer The High Kings, who's performance look just much more natural to me. But loved your review Cash, and those screaming girls should overcome that behaviour when they grow older..  Roll Eyes
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