The Fifth Celebration of Irish Music
Sydney State Theatre, March 17
Reviewed by Gail Lord
Unable to buy a ticket for this years's Celebration of Irish Music concert, I was lucky enough to be given a ticket while selling Green Left Weekly at intermission. For this year's concert talent was chosen from Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Once seated, my first question to those around me was, "Has the Rankin Family been on yet?". "No", came the reply. Luckily, I also had not missed Sharon Shannon, who came to prominence with the release of her album Women's Heart. Last year's favourites, Chris Newman, Maire Ni Chathasaigh, Donal Lunny and Kieran Goss, made welcome reappearances this year.
Brendan Power, a New Zealander of Irish extraction, showed he is equally at ease on blues harp and chromatic harmonica. Those around me certainly enjoyed Altan, one of Ireland's most critically acclaimed and commercially successful bands, who combine traditional and contemporary Irish music. Many were sure to buy Altan's latest album, Island Angel.
A comic's life is a hard one, and with this in mind I must commend John Moloney for his one-liners after being heckled. Unfortunately, the celebration concerts have yet to give us comedians of the calibre of Sean Hughes or Ben Elton. Sadly, Moloney felt the need to tell a racist joke, and we didn't mind that he is a few kilos overweight, so why should he? Moloney needs to watch a bit of Andrew Denton. However, his duelling tin whistle and piano accordion (instead of duelling banjos) was great fun. Perhaps the concert organisers should hold a competition in Ireland and choose not one but two comics to tour.
Just before the grand finale, the Rankin Family brought a contemporary touch to old favourites. They hail from Canada and are EMI Canada's number one selling artists. They have headlined folk festivals in the US and Europe. They sang songs from Cape Breton, hundreds of years old, in the Celtic tongue (check out their new album North Country). The Rankin sisters raised the roof with applause when they joined in dance with the couple who won the Victorian Irish dance championships.
It is regrettable, however, that there was no social comment on modern struggles or situations like that presented when Christy Moore toured previously with the celebration concerts. That said, praise must go to the concert's promoters for presenting a show where you definitely felt you got your money's worth.
The Fifth Celebration of Irish Music remaining tour dates are: Canberra School of Music, Tuesday, March 28 (phone (06) 257 1077); Melbourne Concert Hall, Wednesday, March 29 (tickets through Bass); Perth Regal Theatre, Friday, March 31 (phone (09) 381 5522).