Celtic Thunder brought its show of traditional Irish and contemporary pop songs to the Times Union Center Thursday night, from traditional folk — including haunting percussion and bagpipes — to current songs set against Irish dress and visuals of the homeland.
The five members of the group — male singers ranging from a teenager to seasoned and successful Irish stars — performed mostly individually but occasionally together to create mildly climactic moments, backed by a nine-piece band.
Ryan Kelly’s “Ride On” and the traditional “Come by the Hills” by Damian McGinty conjured images of Irish folklore, though the latter was delivered with a slight uptempo contemporary pop sound.
George Donaldson sang “The Voyage,” a cliché-riddled tune about life as an ocean with love a port.
Many of their nontraditional songs moved like adult nursery rhymes, simple in structure and lyrics, bordering on condescending. Nevertheless, the vocals were entertaining enough, the set and arrangements were pleasant and the audience, which barely filled half the arena, seemed to enjoy themselves.
McGinty, a mere 14 years old, avoided the temptation to oversing like an “Irish Idol,” though it was clear from the strength and control of his voice that he could have. He opened the second set in a suit singing a fun version of Paul Anka’s “Puppy Love.”
Keith Harkin was by far the most seasoned and impressive singer, with the widest range and most ambitious arrangements, singing songs like “Remember Me, Recuerde Me,” which he presented closer to Italian opera than Irish folk.
“Heartbreaker,” sung by Ryan Kelly, was the first time they drifted far from the Irish songbook, an original that had a Latin feel. One of the four female string players doubled as a dancer to act out the song around Kelly.
This unnecessary distraction continued for the next song, when a white-gowned female — presumably an angelic vision — came down to taunt Paul Byrom during his cover of the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin.”
They returned to the traditional Irish songbook with Paul McCartney’s “Mull of Kintyre,” accompanied by a bagpiper and recorder.
Keith Harkin’s “The Island” touched on a few political notes before returning to the safety of the love song.
Donaldson sang “The Old Man,” one of the weaker tunes of the night, about remembering his dad.
Harkin elicited some heartthrob screams, but that didn’t keep up, probably because most of the crowd looked to be 50 or older. During the ballad “Lauren and I,” the screams peaked but never returned.
There were some misfit tunes, like the Eagles’ “Desperado,” which felt odd following a traditional tune. Hearing Harkin cover the hit “I Want to Know What Love Is” was totally disappointing. Of all the songs to cover in an Irish show, that one?
The show turned out to be a polished, well-produced pop concert sung by Irish men, rather than a journey through Ireland’s music, though there were a few oldies like “Danny Boy,” which they sang a cappella with impeccable harmonies.
The show didn’t have a typical rhythm. Instead, the five singers rotated individually and too rarely came together, which would have mixed things up nicely. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable, tasteful show that made for a nice night out.