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Concert Review: Celtic Woman at Amway Center

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 06, 2011 12:44 pm    Post subject: Concert Review: Celtic Woman at Amway Center Reply with quote

There’s one fewer Celtic Woman in Celtic Woman now than in the ensemble’s 2009 stop at the old Amway Arena.

So what happened? A glitch in the assembly-line somewhere?

That was the only thing that was downsized in the lavish, unrelentingly mellow production that unfolded on Saturday for a crowd that didn’t quite fill the lower bowl at the new Amway Center. Emerging five-years ago as sort of a Riverdance with singers, Celtic Woman has become the Lawrence Welk of a new generation of PBS fans thanks to those ubiquitous pledge-drive specials.

In the same way that the Welk stars once belted out pop hits such as “One Toke Over the Line” without trace of irony, Celtic Woman mixes together Billy Joel and traditional Irish ballads into something that’s pleasant and pretty, even if it ultimately doesn’t do justice to either.

The pretty part, of course, starts with the women themselves — fiddler Máiréad Nesbitt, singers Lisa Kelly , Chloë Agnew and new member Lisa Lambe . Adorned in sparkling floor-length gowns, they looked like escapees from a pageant evening-gown competition.

At least I imagine that’s how they looked. It really was hard to tell from my perch at the top of the lower-bowl on the far end of the arena. Next time, how about a jumbo video screen?

The vocalists don’t introduce themselves and often sound interchangeable, which lends to the Stepford vibe. That’s not to diminish the singing, which was moving at times, especially on the traditional ballads.

“Danny Boy,” delivered near the end of the first of two hour-long sets, was a lovely, a cappella showcase for the three singers together. It was one of the occasional moments that managed to transcend Celtic Woman’s sanitized hybrid of styles.

That mish-mash of influences was evident by looking at the band: A cluster of traditional instruments on the right, a piano on the left, a bagpipe cameo and two massive drum sets on the risers behind the singers. There were enough cymbals and tom-toms to power three arena-rock bands.

Of course, the drummers never cut loose in a show where any kind of energy was in short supply. The choreography amounted to deliberate, coordinated walking or gestures borrowed from auto-show spokes-models.

The closest Celtic Woman came to rocking out was on anthems such as Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” and “You Raise Me Up,” the group’s equivalent of “Free Bird.”

Celtic Woman’s secret weapon is still fiddler Nesbitt, who cavorted across the stage like a woodland sprite as she simultaneously sawed away at intricate musical passages. I don’t know if she was really playing, but I don’t care.

At least it was lively, a word that rarely applies to Celtic Woman.
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