Review: Celtic Thunder up and down in concert performance

2011-10-21T23:55:00Z Review: Celtic Thunder up and down in concert performanceBy JEFF KORBELIK / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
October 21, 2011 11:55 pm  • 

Celtic Thunder started out of the gate slow, but finished strong with its sold-out performance Friday night at the Lied Center for Performing Arts.

Presented by NET Television, the six-man group mixed traditional Irish music and covers of contemporary hits during its two-hour program.

Backed by a stellar six-piece orchestra, Celtic Thunder eased their audience into the show, with each member taking center stage on a ballad, including such favorites as "Noreen" by Neil Byrne and "Black is the Color" by Ryan Kelly.

The newest member -- 13-year-old Daniel Furlong -- immediately had the crowd in the palm of his hand, with a charming performance of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

In the program's second half, Celtic Thunder really found its groove, mixing Irish drinking songs with covers of tunes by the Eagles ("Desperado"), Harry Chapin ("Cats in the Cradle"), Billy Joel ("She's Always a Woman") and Randy Newman's ("Friend in Me").

All six performers -- Byrne, Kelly, Furlong, Emmet Cahill, Keith Harkin and George Donaldson -- were excellent singers, never once struggling during their solo performances. The best parts, however, were when they sang together. Their harmonization on "Danny Boy" was something to hear.

As for criticisms ... not many.

The concert wasn't really a concert, but more of a choreographed show, with the singers rarely interacting with the audience. They sang their songs and then headed off stage for another wardrobe change.

It wasn't until the eighth song in the second act -- Kelly's performance of Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places" -- that one of the six finally acknowledged they were in Lincoln. Until then, it was no different than being at home watching the concert on PBS.

The song order also was strange, especially at the end of the second act when Celtic Thunder alternated fast- and slow-paced songs, one right after another.

I would have kept the energy going until the end, leading into the performance of the stirring "Ireland's Call."

Overall, though, Celtic Thunder succeeded in pleasing its fans. They left quite satisfied and happy to learn the group will be back to Lincoln soon for another concert.

Reach Jeff Korbelik at 402-473-7213 or jkorbelik@journalstar.com, or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/LJSjeffkorbelik.

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