With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, Celtic Woman brought their elaborate production to a full Palace Theater Wednesday night, singing many from their newest record “Believe,” as well as traditional Irish music.
With a full band, back-up singers, two percussionists with several racks of drums and cymbals, a richly decorated stage and several costume changes, the show is a well-orchestrated theatrical spectacle as much as it is a concert.
Chloe Agnew, Lisa Lambe and Susan McFadden spent as much time on the stage together as they did alone, singing both solos and three-part harmonies.
Fiddler Mairead Nesbitt was given considerable stage time as well. Her playing is fine, and often very fine, but the real entertainment is her bending, kicking, hip-shaking and head-swinging while soloing. Her playing may be rote, but she still swooped skillfully up and down the staged staircase in heels and gown.
The show’s tempo shifted nicely from ballads to Irish dance to drum-thundering instrumentals.
Susan McFadden — this is her first tour — sang alone the slow, soaring “Sailing” from their latest record, the other members joining her as the song lifted smoothly and tension-free. To its credit, for all the polish and orchestration, the singing and production never forced its way toward an over-the-top crescendo. In fact, there weren’t really high points or low points to each song or to the show as a whole, as one expects in these kind of productions. Instead, you got nice music without the awkward and dishonest sensational moments.
To be sure, there were choreographed high moments, as in “A Woman’s Heart,” which leaned forward like a pop tune, starting off gently with a three-part harmony and then swelling from underneath with the pounding of the tympani-sized bass drums, crashing cymbals, a wailing bagpipe, acoustic guitars and a high-pitched recorder in the upper scales. What could have been too much instead was just right, a display of discipline from the show’s director and performers.
The Palace held the sound easily at the show’s smallest and largest moments.
McFadden seemed to be the strongest vocalist, and we heard it clearly in the traditional “Water is Wide,” which she sang alone. The first glimpse of her full voice was during “Follow On” early in the show, when she belted a few notes but fortunately stopped short of American Idol-like proportions.
A few spotlights on the two drummers were awesome, whether on hand drums, tom toms or the full drum kit. There was also a few Celtic yodeling parts among the women, where together they traded phrases like an Irish scat.
Agnew, Lambe and McFadden came out in three large shoulderless gowns to open the second set with a beautiful “Amazing Grace,” perhaps the most emotional song of the night. The three sang “Danny Boy” together, entertaining for the more traditional fan, but little happened with the song.
They did a tribute to Broadway, starting with “I Dreamed a Dream.”
For a wholesome, G-rated show, families and children were oddly missing from the audience, replaced by the elderly set. The group travels nearly non-stop, performing the same show night after night like Broadway actors. Thursday night they performed like they are still enjoying themselves and excited to be on the stage.
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