Friday, February 22, 2013

My Night With Celtic Thunder

Last Christmas I bought my Nan tickets to see Celtic Thunder live in concert because I’m an awesome grand-daughter and I had to give her something better than the Celtic Thunder DVD I’d given her the Christmas before which she’d promptly become obsessed with (I suspect ‘fandom’ may be a thing that could run in our family). I’d said I would go with her and do the good grand-daughterly thing, but the concert was mooooonths away and I was secure in the fact I didn’t have to worry about it for ages. Last weekend the moment of truth was upon me. I was going to be going to a Celtic Thunder concert. I was going to be surrounded by the sort of people who liked Celtic Thunder. I’d seen one of their DVDs, I’d seen the crazy look in the eyes of their fans. I didn’t really know if I was emotionally ready to deal with something like that.

Head below the cut to read about my night of horror and/or lulz.

Before we go much further, let’s actually meet Celtic Thunder, shall we? If you already know all about them, feel free to skip ahead, but I’m going to presume that much of our readership would have had very little reason or desire to learn any facts whatsoever about the Celtic Thunder Experience previously. They’re a band of the general British area (I could’ve said ‘Irish band’ if not for that one Scottish guy, and I could have said ‘British band’ except the Republic of Ireland would have got all snippy at me like fuuurious little leprechauns), who started up in 2007 presumably to fill the gaping ‘boyband for octogenarians’ gap in the market. They’re basically One Direction but for the elderly. They sing the Hits of Ireland as well as various contemporary songs from the last, er, 30 or 40 years. If you looked them up at the record store they’d be in the ‘World’ category, near the Eurovision compilations. That sort of band. Even though their name makes them sound like a group of Irish strippers, they’re very family friendly.

I went to dinner at a nearby restaurant before the show, and I heard people at the next table over discussing the band and using their NAMES. You know the NAMES of the guys in Celtic Thunder? That’s a whole ‘nother level, right there. I pretty much only knew them as ‘The One With The Hair’, ‘The Bald One’ and ‘The Other Three That Look The Same’. That’s about as far as I go. But let’s meet these dashing chaps that had everyone all a’ flutter.

The One Who Replaced The Kid Who Went and Joined Glee (Emmet Cahill)
To be honest there’s like a thousand interchangeable guys in this band and I have no idea if he did actually replace the kid to went to Glee, but he wasn’t in the band when I saw the concert with the Glee kid in it, so that’s good enough for me. He is 22 and already has a bunch of fancy awards for being good at the singing. He’s been doing the fancy professional singing training since he was 7. As a kid who didn’t present with a talent at an early age, I resent that. Go away Emmet, you and your ridiculously stupidly good voice.

The Bald One (George Donaldson)
George is from Scotland and is a bus builder by trade. No prissy friggin’ private singing schools for George! The man can build you a BUS! His bio on the official Celtic Thunder website says ‘George was cast in Celtic Thunder is the “steadfast” one, and he carries the distinction of being the sole Scotsman in the show, as well as the only married family man of the group’ which frankly makes him sound incredibly boring, but whatever. BUSES. People screamed for this guy a lot and I didn’t understand it. Do they want him to make them a bus? I’d scream for him if I got a bus. How cool would it be to have your own bus? Man.

The Other One (Ryan Kelly)
I knew so little about Ryan Kelly that he didn’t even get a stupid nickname. Poor Ryan Kelly. According to his bio he was cast as the ‘rogue’ or ‘Dark Destroyer’ in the band. Ooooh! I think Dark Destroyer will be his new nickname. Doesn’t sound like a sci-fi porn character AT ALL. Wonderful. Apparently Ryan only re-joined the band fairly recently after being in a car accident. During the show he was talking about being in a coma as flippantly as he might talk about going down the shops. Perhaps I mis-heard and he actually said he bought a comb. No one reacted to it really, so either they all already knew or he was actually talking about combs.

The One With The Hair (Keith Harkin)
Okay, so I kiiiind of already knew this one’s name, primarily because he’s my Nan’s favourite and because he has such glorious boyband hair that I couldn’t possibly ignore him totally. I wonder if the hair is specified in his contract. Cut yer hair, and yer out on yer arse. He did a few solo songs during the show, and he sounded very much like Keith Urban which was incredibly unexpected and did nothing to quell my guilty lust for him. Like, there’s ‘having a guilty pleasure’ and then there’s ‘finding a member of Celtic Thunder attractive’. Totally different thing. But really, if I was going to like one of them, it was always going to be The One With The Hair.

The Guitar One (Neil Byrne)
The Guitar One played guitar in the Celtic Thunder band but then was upgraded to being Singer Guy when the DARK DESTROYER had his car accident (and/or bought a comb). I assume. I have nothing to back that up. He was their guitarist though, at least that part is true. He said during the show that he had a Fender Stratocaster since he was 7, which leads me to believe he was either a very spoilt child or his parents lied and actually just bought him a Mexican Squier knock-off. When I was 7 I had a classical acoustic guitar that I couldn’t even plug into an amp. I wasn’t even given the opportunity to rock. Neil had the opportunity to rock and elected to join Celtic Thunder. Make of that what you will. The Guitar One had the best accent out of all of them. I have regional preferences.

Okay, so now we’ve met our cast, we can carry on. We accidentally got to the venue way too early, so killed some time by lining up in the already fairly lengthy merch line to buy a program. The lady in front of us kept butting in on our casual conversation with useful titbits of information. I’m really sure she thought she was being helpful, but I didn’t really need to know how she owned all the Celtic Thunder DVDs and that they were really good. She had seemingly memorised the entire Celtic Thunder merchandise range and was disappointed when she got to the front of the line and not everything was available. Nothing about this experience was helping to dampen my ‘Oh god, these are NOT my people!’ anxiety. I bought a program (and the last two magnets, ha-HA!) and got the hell out of there.

This feels somewhat excessive to me.
We did have a fair wait in our seats before the show actually started on account of getting to the venue just as doors opened, but a couple of minutes out the voiceover came on and I thought ‘Ooh, right, here we go’, but then I actually listened to what the voiceover was telling me. Did I know that leprosy is still an issue? Did I know that leprosy still kills a bunch of people every year? NO VOICEOVER, I DID NOT. Voiceover told me of a donation scheme that sounded far too much like ‘Adopt-a-Leper’ for my liking, and that if I was one of the first ten people who went out into the foyer to adopt a leper I would get a signed Celtic Thunder CD. I was too shocked to go out to the foyer to adopt a leper. LEPROSY IS STILL A THING? Unbelieveable. Don’t let me deter you from adopting a leper though, details below.

Leper shocks over, it was time for the show. I will totally admit that I was going in pessimistic but open. I like a lot of really crap things, there’s no reason why I couldn’t add Celtic Thunder to the gang. The music BEGINS....and they come out in raincoats.

Fancy raincoats, but still, raincoats. Actually maybe those are leather coats. ANYWAY at our show they were definitely some kind of fancy unrumpled fisherman-type coat. I got a bit worried, but I thought ‘Go with it, just go with it’. The One With The Hair did the first solo song of the evening, which eased the transition a little. A few songs in I found myself actually kind of enjoying it all. The ‘choreography’ was charmingly terrible, but the lighting design was fantastic. The One Who Replaced The Kid Who Went...oh screw it, EMMET. I will call him EMMET. Anyway, he was exceptionally good and The Hair One was going to have to fight to keep his grip on top spot in the Celtic Thunder preference rankings. Emmet didn’t have his own officially licensed t-shirt though, so that ultimately counted against him.

The definitive turning point was them doing an a capella song called Steal Away which I vaguely recognised from something or other. It was really good you guys. I actually listened to it on Spotify the next day but forgot to set it as a private session, so it came up on my Facebook and that was a bit embarrassing. Passed it off as research for this article. I listened to Celtic Thunder for science. And then I watched this video for science. Several times.

I was slightly disappointed that 90% of the set was made up of Irish songs, which I recognise as being completely ridiculous given that their whole schtick is SINGING IRISH SONGS. I think the DVD I saw had them doing a bunch of pop songs as well as the Irish stuff and I sort of expected the show to be like that, but no. And they reinforced how creepy I find covers of ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police. That’s not a love song guys. That’s a weird and creepy song.

When Nan turned to me at the end of the night and asked if I liked it, I was able to say ‘yes’ with very little hesitation. You can’t sit through two hours of that sort of thing and not feel in any way unentertained. It was entertaining. Would I buy any of their CDs or DVDs? Oh hell no. Would I go and see them again next time they came to town? Very likely. I actually paid quite a lot for the tickets so we could have seats right up the front, and I didn’t walk out of there feeling like it was a waste of money. Nan loved it, which was essentially the sole aim of the whole exercise, but I left rather charmed by them too.

And am continuing to be charmed by their weirdly Photoshoppy promo images
Well done, Celtic Thunder. I’ll be back.

And The One With The Hair can feel free to call me at any time.


  1. I swear they're all wearing the same belt in the last image.

    1. It looks like different heads have just been photoshopped onto the one body. So weird.

  2. I really, really, really hope that Celtic Thunder google themselves and read this awesome post!

    And I hope you bought a Cafe Press looking Celtic Thunder teddy bear!

    1. The lady in front of me at merch was really sad that there were no Celtic Thunder teddy bears available. I did see a girl with one, which meant that she either had been to a show in another state and got it there, or bought it off the website. Either way....

      I mean, I bought a teddy bear when I went to see the stage musical of Shout! but I WAS a teenager at the time, so...

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