Posted by: mdmusingsie | June 8, 2010

Altan – 25 years and counting

As mentioned, I went to the Altan concert at the Town Hall Theatre in Galway on June 4th, 2010. They were nearly finished with their ‘25th Anniversary Celebration Tour’. Although the band has undergone a few changes in that time, they are still a force to be reckoned with.

As one of the first Irish bands that sparked my interest in “trad” music and the Irish Gaelic language, I have a particular fondness for them and still listen to their music over and over without it growing old and tired. I’ve seen them play several times in Portland, OR, and now here in Galway. I also had the fortune to see Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh play with Clannad two years ago at Leo’s Tavern 40th anniversary as well as her solo excursion at Celtic Colours in Nova Scotia with Manus Lunny last year.

The theatre appeared to be nearly full, though the first row was entirely empty, possibly by design as it was so close to the stage and you would have to crane your neck to look up. I would have thought such a well known band would have sold out the show easily, but then again, prophets are seldom recognized in their proverbial back yards.

I never tire of seeing them play and enjoy the enthusiasm they bring to the stage after such long careers. They aren’t afraid to throw a little banter back and forth which is a sure sign that they still enjoy performing together.  The first set was surprisingly short – only about 45 minutes, but they made up for it in the second set, which, including the encore, was well over an hour.

The selections they played were from deep in the past up through tunes from Mairéad’s new solo CD Imeall (which was a limited release, hand numbered, and in short supply, according to the artist herself; and yes, I do have a copy – signed as well). She has an amazing voice and puts her heart into both her playing and her singing. In addition they had a few local musician friends join them including John O’Halloran on accordion, Rev. Gary Hastings on flute as well as Emma O’Sullivan, an acclaimed sean nós dancer.

If you’ve never heard Altan, I would highly recommend it. I’m not a big fan of “greatest hit” compilations as my personal favorites are seldom the ‘chart hits’, but I did like The First 10 years: 1986-1995 for anyone wanting an introduction. I also highly recommend Another Sky as well as Local Ground though you can’t go wrong with any of their CDs. Check out www.altan.ie  for more information.

Sadly, the evening had to end, but not before we sent them off with more than one standing O.

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