Monday, September 20, 2004

The Chieftains in Concert

What a night. The Chieftains played the London Palladium and Orlando and I were there to see it.

We started the evening in a meat-eater’s paradise called Bodeans BBQ in Poland Street, Soho. Bodean’s is a American-diner-type please and they pretty much only serve up huge slabs of meat! There is a diner downstairs too. Let me tell you, we will never be able to get Orlando out of this place. Excellent food!

Then on to the Palladium to see a fantastic evening of Irish music. The Chieftains are probably the best-known and best-loved traditional Irish musicians.

The Chieftains were joined on stage by a lady taking the late Derek Bell’s place on keyboard and Irish harp, and also by a cellist and a fiddler.

Minutes into the performance another young lean-limbed bloke wandered onto the stage and gave the most amazing high-energy step-dance performance. He was joined half-way through by his borther, the second fiddler on the stage. These young men are the Polanski brothers from Ottawa, Canada and they almost stole the show.

The Chieftains had the place eating out of their hands immediately, but the highlight of the night for me was when the inimitable Paddy Maloney stepped up to the front with his tin whistle. There was total silence in the auditorium as the melancholy notes of Mna na hEireann rang out. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck and I held my breath till the last note. Magical.

In typical style, they had lots of guests helping them along – a young Irish singer and a local London girl on the fiddle; Fergus from Glasgow on the Scottish pipes, and the lead singer from the Fleadh Cowboys.The Polanski boys were also joined by Cara Butler, a champion Irish dancer from Long Island, New York (must be Jean Butler’s sister, she of Riverdance fame).

They sang tracks from their Long Black Veil and Santiago albums. The origin of "Santiago" dates back to 1984 after a Chieftains performance in the seaport of Vigo, in the Galicia region of Spain. It was there that they first heard Carlos Núñez, who, says Moloney, "literally became the seventh member of The Chieftains" on their world tours. Núñez was replaced last night by the Fleadh Cowboys guy, and the 2 or 3 tracks played were an amazing blend of Irish and Spanish traditions.

All in all, an evening of great fun and music and dance. These guys are in the their 42nd year together, so go see them when you can – they won’t last forever!