I know. It's been quite awhile since I've posted a review here. But as the last show, while always spectacular, got to be pretty much the same with a few minor tweaks for around three years, I didn't feel compelled to write a review for the last year and a half or so. There just wasn't that much to say. This year, however, the group has entered a new era. And I must say, I'm diggin' it.
I say Gainesville is full circle because it was here in 2012, in the same month, that I first met my later life inspiration, and our patron fiddler, Máiréad. This was back when the girls were behind tables and photos "technically" weren't allowed, but she was gracious enough to take a wonderful photo with Steph and I anyway. I'll never forget it. I'll come back to this later.
Steph and I arrived in Gainesville on Saturday and got a cheap room at the Quality Inn. We weren't looking for luxury, just a place to crash. Steph isn't a fan of seafood except for crab cakes. On our last "date night", she had a hankering for crab cakes. But to get good seafood where we live, you have to drive either to Daytona or Orlando. We started our date late and it was thunder storming, so we stayed local....no crab cakes. I promised her I'd see she got some the next time we went out. So Saturday night I did a Google search for the best seafood in Gainesville and came across Harry's Seafood, Bar and Grill. They specialize in cajun style fair. The food and service was excellent....and she got her crab cakes. They have locations in Gainesville, Ocala, Lakeland, St. Augustine and Tallahassee. So if you happen to be in any of these locations, and you dig seafood or Cajun, I highly recommend it.
Now back in Daytona '14, we decided to rock kilts at that show. I haven't worn one to a CW show since then. And when I see Anthony, there is always an exchange something to the effect of "where's your kilt". So we decided to sport the kilts for this show. I rocked my stylish "modern kilt" for this one. Black and adorned with numerous studs and chains, it's actually designed for the younger "neo-hippie", "Burning Man" attendee type. Some might say I'm a little old for that. But I don't care. I'll rock it anyway. I'm thinking of wearing that one to PTC in a couple of weeks. Steph, meanwhile, showcased the Irish National Tartan to honor the girls and to commemorate the Centennial of the Easter rising of 1916.
I was pleasantly surprised with the M&G this time around. The last one I had attended in Savannah was rushed, and I sensed a strange vibe. Maybe it was just me. This one was not rushed, and the ladies were very engaging.
Others have written reviews which includes the set list, so I won't rehash that. I'll just give some thoughts and opinions. I absolutely love this show! Sure, the previous one had more theatrics and had built in audience interaction. But it was becoming somewhat dated. This show is much more Irish and less "pop" which, of course, is a plus. Also, this show is much more a concert and less a theatrical spectacle. Steph, who is really into her movies and TV shows, said that while she liked this show and had a great time, she did miss the theatrics. As a musician (albeit amateur), I much prefer the "concert" vibe. The girls and the cast were on top of their game as they always are. They are consummate professionals. And this year I've been impressed with the multi-instramentalism (is that a word?) of the cast. Brian McGrane, one of our fav pianists, taking guitar duties on the DVD. We've seen Anthony on pipes and percussion, but we've seen him on guitar this year (Prince tribute). Choir members as well have shown their skills on piano and guitar. In fact, in this show two of the guys did an Adele medley, giving the girls a short break. And we get to see Susan, Éabha, and Máiréad Carlin display skills on spoons, Tin Whistle, and Accordion respectively. That was a nice treat. I will say I do miss Sarah and Edel though.
We were second row center. I gave Máiréad a standing O for her solos. I was the only one around me who did. Now the Sterlings and the Hargroves were front row house left, so I didn't see if they gave her standing Os. Knowing them as I do, I'm sure they did. But I was focused on Máiréad. At the end of Skyrim in particular, she noticed and acknowledged me. Amazing Grace got a standing O from everyone. But that, of course, is a crowd favorite.
The most touching part of the show for me was when the girls come out, Máiread Carlin center stage with a book, Éabha stage right, Susan stage left. Máiréad reads from the book giving an historical account of the Easter rising. Then the other two recite a poem giving a more emotional account with Éabha speaking Irish Gaelic while Susan translated in English, all while Máiréad played a soft, slow air. I don't know where the poem comes from, but it really touched me. Yes, we Americans like to claim our Celtic heritage. We drink Guinness, go overboard celebrating St. Patricks day, some of the nuts actually wear kilts from time to time
. But as I sat there listening, I really became aware that this is about the homeland of the true
Celts on stage. Its as important to them as our fight for freedom (our Revolution for freedom of our country, our Civil War for freedom of ALL Americans). It's so ingrained into their memory as Pearl Harbor and 911 is to us. Growing up in the '70s, '80's, and even into the '90s, my parents took pride in our heritage and were close friends with a couple from Ireland. As a child, I remember the discussions about the conflict still going on in Ireland at that time. My heart was so warmed that now, in the new Century, there is a respect between the North and the South. That three ladies from the Republic, and one from Derry can share, not only the stage, but a sisterhood.
After the show, we went 'round to the buses. I wanted Anthony to see I was wearing a Kilt! I try not to take too aggressive an attitude at the buses. After all, they are "off the clock". Usually, I just wave or yell congrats on a great show, and if they want to approach and engage, it's up to them. Sometimes they're in a rush and it's pretty much a bust. But there are also times when, as I know many of you know, we'd be rewarded with discussions with Ray, Brian; Anthony and I discussed Kilts after one show. And of course sometimes you're lucky enough that front line girls will engage.
This "bus greeting" was very unique. Upon finishing this show, they have a few days off. As we walked around to the buses, I noticed there were brand new Mustang convertibles parked around the buses. I thought that was kind of strange. We didn't get any real engagement with band members. They, as well as the front line girls, were busy going through their luggage, picking out essentials they'd need, pairing off and driving away in the Mustangs. Máiréad Carlin gave us a thumbs up as she rode away in a Mustang with her beau. Anthony also gave us a thumbs up as he drove away. Susan did take some time with us and took a "selfie" with Steph. We didn't see Éabha. But a video on her FB page shows her in a convertible off to Orlando, hair flying in the breeze. Our Máiréad passed Steph and I as she was frantically getting things together and giving hugs to her colleagues as they departed. She said "give me one sec". She returned to us and engaged in a couple of minutes of small talk, then volunteered to take a selfie with us. After the selfie, she said "well, let me go disperse the crowd". We bid her farewell and she went over to a group of fans who were seeking autographs.. Over the years, she's been kind enough to throw me a bone occasionally on twitter with likes or even a comment. She's even given me positive comments on music tracks I played on that I've tweeted to her. Whether she really means it or just trying to boost my confidence, its really a sweet gesture on her part. So I felt this was full circle for me after that April night back in 2012.
After leaving the venue, we met with our Florida fan regulars, the Sterlings and the Hargroves, for dinner at Chuy's (the Hargroves are actually Georgians, but they regularly attend the North/Central Florida shows). I felt a little strange patronizing a Mexican restaurant in a Kilt. It was nice to converse a bit, but we didn't linger too long. We had a two hour drive, and felt we should get back to our son, Aaron as our adult daughter, Ashley wouldn't be there that night. But we'll see them as well as many of you in a couple of weeks in PTC. We can't wait!
The Official M&G photo. It was in a dark storage room. Certainly not the best M&G photo. We all look scary!
Selfie of the blondes.
This show's Máiréad selfie. It comes full circle with that first meeting in 2012. (far below)