The Chieftains celebrate 50 years at Symphony Hall

A review of The Chieftains at Symphony Hall on March 14, 2012

, Managing Editor

It was an interesting day last Wednesday when The Chieftains were scheduled to perform at Symphony Hall. Paddy Moloney and company got on a plane heading to Boston not even knowing if there would be a show as the hall was still without power on Wednesday morning after a fire in Back Bay knocked out power for most of the businesses and residences in the area. Luckily, the show did go on and fans still got the chance to celebrate the 50th anniversary tour of one of Ireland’s most revered bands.

The Chieftains may be the most famous traditional Irish band in the world, but they’ve also garnered a reputation for collaborations and an eclectic sound over the years as they’ve covered music from a variety of cultures. The group, who derive much of their sound from Paddy Moloney’s pipes, and a mix of fiddle, flute, harp, and drums, went heavy on the Irish influence on Wednesday, but also touched on the sounds of Scotland, French Canada and even a little Americana (“Cotton-Eyed Joe”). Their performance included songs of both instrumental and vocal variety, Irish step dancing, tap dancing and appearances by the North Shore Pipe Band, which powered “March to Battle” and show-closer “An Dro”.

Although the set featured several beautifully powerful ballads, the overall mood of the evening was light and relaxed. Moloney was a big influence on that as he told stories and cracked jokes like how Sting was going to come perform “Mo Ghile Mear” with them but he “got stuck on the train”, and later checking his watch and making “wrap it up”-type gestures during everyone’s solos in the pre-encore closing medley.

After the medley, which featured outstanding improvisation and dancing, The Chieftains closed out the show in even grander fashion with a “snake dance” to “An Dro” that made its way through the audience, picking up members as it moved along, and ending onstage with the band, Irish step dancers, and the North Shore Pipe Band.

It wasn’t certain whether The Chieftains would get to perform last Wednesday, but as they say, “the show must go on”. The Chieftains have gone on for 50 years, and hopefully many more to come.

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