Wednesday 6 June 2012


Live Review

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Like a fine wine the older The Chieftains get the better they are. They may have been going for 50 years but they can still put on a show to rival any contenders, and their enthusiasm for music and spectacle is showing no signs of diminishing.

The Chieftains at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Paddy Moloney brought his crew of excellent musicians which included Kevin Conneff on vocals and bodhran, and Matt Molloy on flute, but there was the added bonus of Alyth McCormack on vocals and Triona Marshall on keyboard and Irish harp.
The Chieftains know how to put on a show and kept the almost packed Symphony Hall jumping right from the off with Limerick's Lamentation which hit the eager crowd between the ears and from then on they never let up.
Paddy, mischievous as ever, eventually got around to greeting his audience in Irish pretending he had forgotten where he was. He quickly introduced an extra dimension to the night in the form of the energetic Step Crew a Canadian group of talented musicians and seemingly inexhaustible dancers.
Cara Butler brought her lithe and fluid dancing to accentuate the Chieftain's playing along with the raucous and loud stompings of the brothers Jon and Nathan Pilatze, all three were breathtaking in their athletic movements even when sitting down.
The Irish folk band had also brought with them Deanie Richardson a blue grass fiddler and mandolin player who is absolutely incredible both to watch and hear. Her marvelous ability has such life and power it just radiates talent and passion for her music.
Between them they weaved in and out of each others' tunes and although The Chieftains were central to the show they were happy to take a step back to allow the other musicians to shine.
McCormack's Scottish voice is as pure as the single malts her home country produces and she sang a wonderful version of Carrickfergus but really showed her talent and versatility with her puirt a beul which is Gaelic for music of the mouth. It's perhaps best described as an ancient folk ancestor of rap but has to be heard to be really appreciated.
She sang about drinking too much at Christmas and the price of tobacco but the sound was so mesmerising she could have been singing about dog mess and you would have gladly listened to her crystal and machine gun-like voice.
The Step Crew, copyright belongs to Step Crew

In between this fantastic piece of folk variety The Chieftains gave the eager audience renditions of the irreverent Ellen Brown, Cotton Eye Joe, Morning Dew and Shady Grove.
It was a shame invigilators of the Guinness Book of Records weren't there because the band gave what was perhaps the longest rendition of Toss the Feathers ever heard this side of the Shannon. It was perfectly executed with enough interruptions to give all the assembled group a chance to show their solo talents.
Almost without stopping for breath Moloney and his troupe brought music from Galacia switching easily to the Rocky Road to Dublin then Ballyfin and laying out some polkas to for good measure. As if that wasn't enough the band also brought on the cutest young Irish dancers from and just to top off one of the best shows Brum has seen for some time there were also the members of Birmingham Irish Pipes and Drums marching and playing impressively in the matching uniforms of kilts.
Accompanying The Chieftains with the March to Battle they filled the hall with a fantastic Celtic sound that would have stirred the heart of any one with Irish connections.
The band ended the concert with their own version of the conga where they dragged many of the audience around the auditorium and up on to the stage to finish to rapturous applause.
For more information about The Chieftains and their current tour visit

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