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Author Topic: BELIEVE in Kansas City (review)  (Read 1320 times)
David Knisely
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« on: April 08, 2012, 02:43AM »

This is going to be *really* long and has a lot of spoilers, so be prepared......


     Well, last December after fighting my way back through a snowstorm after the Celtic Woman Christmas concert in Denver, I had toyed with the idea of not attending the Kansas City BELIEVE concert on April 4th.  Boy, am I *sooo* glad I didn't do that!  Quite frankly, with all due respect to those who have gone to many of the concerts in the past, this concert has to be *by far* the single best one I have ever attended.  I was just totally blown away by this experience.  Words can't really do justice to what I saw and heard, and to those of you who are still waiting for your chance to see this tour, fret not.  Your wait will be richly rewarded!

     The drive from home was an uneventful 180 mile trip under cloudy skies through rural southeastern Nebraska, northeastern Kansas, and finally over to I-29 in Missouri on a route that I am very familiar with.  It only took me about three and a half hours (including a brief stop in Platte City for lunch and fuel).  I arrived at the somewhat monolithic Kansas City Municipal Auditorium downtown about an hour and a half before the concert began, as I had given myself a lot of lead time in case of construction or other delays.  Parking was in a nice underground garage surrounded by tall buildings beneath the beautiful Barney Allis Plaza, which I briefly explored before heading across the street to the doors of the Music Hall portion of the Municipal Auditorium complex.  The lady taking my money for parking asked, "Are you here for the game?", but I just chuckled and said, "Nope, I am here for THE concert!"

    I had to wait a bit before the doors opened, but once in the lobby, I was surprised to run into a couple of former co-workers from Lincoln, Nebraska who were attending their very first Celtic Woman concert.  They were kind of shocked to find out that this was my fifth concert in about four years, but I explained that Celtic Woman is best experienced live and that a few of their more devoted fans actually follow them to multiple concerts on each tour.  My friends had slightly closer seats that I did, but they had pledged to PBS in St. Louis, so that was no surprise.  I told them they were in for a real treat, and I knew that would be true from my first concert experience a few years ago.  The Kansas City Music Hall is an almost ancient one that dates back to 1936, although it is pretty well preserved.  It seats around 2400 on three levels, and accoustically, it is fair to good.  It has some flaws however, in that there are only two sets of restrooms: on the ground floor, and way up on the 4th floor (and they aren't very big).  Various people were selling the CD's, DVD's, BELIEVE programs, and other Celtic Woman items, but I advised my friends that they should order their music CD from Barnes and Noble, as they would have the versions with the extra two bonus tracks.  I, of course, picked up a souvenir program, but was a little disappointed that the set list of songs for the tour was omitted from the program.  I had a small spiral pad and pen, so I would just have to write them down as the concert went along.

     I was escorted to my seat on orchestra level by an usher, and was pleasently surprised to see I was only about 50 feet from the stage almost directly in front of its center.  The stage had the usual two elevated percussion sections on opposite sides, plus the sweeping suspended fabric band backdrops, trellis-like high arch, and central stairway with side ramps similar to what was done in the Atlanta DVD concert, only more limited.  As I had sat down early, I could see technicians working the lights for final tweaking, and I knew that we would be in the spots during the concert from the look of the layout.  I knew from the CW Forum reviews to expect something not typical of many concerts, and their descriptions were dead-on as to what happened.  The usual announcement about no cameras or recording devices came on, followed by someone from the Kansas City PBS station who gave a quick thank you to those who had pledged.  Then, the band players and percussionists took their places and the house lights went down......

    Next: CHILLS!  In the almost complete darkness, I could just barely see someone on-stage halfway up the central stairway platform, and as my eyes adjusted to the dark, I finally could see that that person had a violin under her chin!  The fog machines began to puff, the tin whistle started, the big drums boomed out, and a white spotlight erupted downward onto the stairway to reveal Mairead Nesbitt enveloped in a foggy white cone of light as "Awakening" commenced.  She began playing and soon Chloe Agnew appeared on the stairway and began singing.  As good as the song is on the DVD, it is just plain absolutely beyond awesome live!  The sound from the singer's microphones was incredibly crisp and clear, with a notable emphasis on the higher range of the audio spectrum.  Indeed, that single song I felt was worth all 180 miles of distance I had to travel to hear it!  Chloe was quickly followed by Lisa Lambe and Susan McFadden.  It was clear that Susan was more than holding her own and perfectly meshing into the group like any member of Celtic Woman should.  Usually, it takes a particular song or maybe two of Celtic Woman to generate tears from me, but once this song began, the tears began as well (and were present for much of the concert).  To quote Lord of the Ring's Sam Gamgee, "I feel as if I was *inside* a song".  I noted a lady in front of me taking her glasses off to wipe her tears away, so I definitely wasn't alone.  The choir was great and lighting was much more dynamic and colorful than in the Atlanta concert DVD, which added to the spectacle.  It was power and majesty all the way through, and this song set the tone for the rest of the concert.

     From that point, they roughly followed the song order from the Atlanta taping, although there were some variations.  "Dulaman" was the next one with Lisa Lambe once again putting her own style to it while still keeping it fairly true to the original version.  It was a little extended from the "A New Journey" DVD version and Lisa did her playful interaction with the band members as she sang, which was fun to watch (but was nothing compared to what would happen later).  This more dynamic motion and action by the singers continued for much of the concert, which again made the performance a lot more fun to watch.  Chloe then came on and asked whether we were having fun yet, followed by an ear-splitting roar of approval from those around me in the audience.  She then launched into "Nocturn" and again, it was a stunningly beautiful performance both visually and musically.  I could catch some of the sound directly from the stage as she sang (especially when she turned towards me), but much of the time, the speakers overpowered her direct voice.

     Next, it was Mairead's turn to dazzle us with "The Foxhunter".  I watched her fly across the stage while playing her "baby", but I also noted the nearby stage foot lights which seemed all too close to where she was running.  I hoped she wouldn't get tangled up in them and fall, but she was in fine form that night, so I had little to fear.  It was a wonderful musical and dancing violin spectacular, which I never get tired of hearing and seeing.  Once the usual rhythmic clapping of the audience began, I almost forgot to count the spins she made while playing (she spun TEN times folks!).  Indeed, during one violin piece, Mairead was whipping her head up and down so violently that I thought she might dislocate her neck!      

     The next song was at first a bit of a puzzle, as I didn't immediately recognize it.  The intro was very different, but with no bagpipes at first, "Sailing" didn't come to my mind almost until the vocals began.  Sure enough, "Sailing" did come through with flying colors and spectacular power.  "A Woman's Heart" came next, and here, Chloe and Susan McFadden did a masterful job.  Then, I finally got to hear Susan on her own with "Follow On".  I considered this to be the weakest song in the Atlanta concert set, although it is still pretty good overall.  However, Susan did very well on it.  She has a really sweet voice and, in some ways, expressed herself with a little more emphasis in some parts than Lisa Kelly did.  Indeed, at one point she almost blasted her hand microphone with her high-note "sweet" power, although she kept things pretty well under control throughout the song.  The song seemed to flow a bit better in this live performance than the DVD version did in places.  Which version do I like best?  It's kind of a tie, as there are positives to both, but I really enjoyed hearing Susan do this song.  Looks like David Downes has picked another winner for Celtic Woman in Susan McFadden.

     After that, the lights stayed down and I started wondering if somebody had screwed up.  I thought I could hear someone softly singing in the audience from the front left side of the theater when suddenly, the sound abruptly went on and I discovered it was Lisa Lambe (somebody didn't switch a mic on quite soon enough).  A spotlight showed her at the front row of the audience on the left side singing the "La La, Da Dat'n Dee Da" from the opening of Tier Abhaile Riu (T.A.R.).  She went through one "cycle" of this while working the audience, and as she finished, a second spot came on on the opposite side of the audience in the front row to reveal Chloe just inside the exit doors starting her "La La, Da Dat'n Dee Da" in answer to Lisa.  From that point on, it was a "Dueling Supranos" act, as each would fire a cycle at the other and then the other would feign frustration and then "return fire".  Chloe was play acting to appear *really* frustrated, with lots of arm motions.  She started to gesture directly to or "address" the people in the front row to "make her case" at very close range as she sang a cycle.  At one point she either got down on her knees to beg or sat down in one gentleman's lap (probably embarasing the heck out of him).  This carried on for a while generating a *lot* of laughter from the audience, when both singers finally decided to carry their "musical argument" back up onto the stage.  Continuing to sing at each other, they climbed back up the short side stairs to the stage and met in the middle, gesturing and arguing with the "La La, Da Dat'n Dee Da"'s until I noticed that way up on the top of the central stairway in the relative dark was Susan.  She looked at Lisa and Chloe, kind of shook her head, and then starting coming down the stairway towards the two of them.  When she got in between them, she thrust her arms out from her sides in a non-verbal "ENOUGH!!" gesture.  That got a very brief split second of silence followed by a roar of laughter and applause.  Susan looked quite pleased, whereupon, she too started a "La La, Da Dat'n Dee Da" cycle of her own.  Chloe then threw up her hands, gave a feigned look of exasperation, and marched over to the guitar player to silently appear to plead her case to him!  I could also see Mairead on the stairway, and it looked like she just wanted no part of this nonsense as she didn't come down right away.  The audience was laughing almost the whole time, and this comedic act was a wonderful way to set the stage for the song itself.  After that, "Tier Abhaile Riu" began in full force, and the clowning around ceased (although none of the performers ever seemed to stop smiling!).

     As with the DVD performance, this song remains my favorite, with the overall performance easily matching that of the Atlanta concert (including Lisa's spoons).  It was fun to see the dancer (the program said it was Craig Ashurst) fly onto stage to do his loud rhythmic dance while Mairead played and the Choir went at it.  Then came the moment I was both hoping for and dreading a little, the "Spin".  Yes, they did successfully complete it without any problems with three guys and our favorite singing female trio, all three with their feet well off the stage floor!  They ended the song and from the looks of all the performers, it was clear that they really love doing this.  The roar of applause that followed pretty much confirmed that the audience was definitely of the same mind.

     Next up was Mairead doing "Granuaile's Dance".  I loved this piece ever since I was stunned seeing her do it for the first time in the Slane Castle concert on PBS, and she did her usual hopping, running, and dancing across the stage as she played.  We must have had a lot of Celtic Woman regulars in the audience, because when she went into the "reels" mode of the song, nearly everyone started clapping to the rhythm almost on-cue.  This was followed by "Danny Boy", but this time, it was done with modest piano accompaniment.  It was slightly different than the other times I have heard Celtic Woman do it, but it was still a wonderful piece with splendid harmony as always.  Indeed, the harmony of the current set of women is particularly good in each and every song they do together.  The next song was my long-time favorite "Mo Ghile Mear", and they didn't disappoint me in the slightest, although I also knew that this would be the last song before intermission.  As with previous concerts that had the song before intermission, this one left me a little exhausted, but very very happy!

     Following intermission, the place went dark again and then a single bagpipe rang out from behind us coming down the isle.  It was Anthony Byrnes playing the start of "Amazing Grace".  It looked like on-stage, Tommy Martin (I think) also had a set of bagpipes he was playing, so there were two sets working at times.  Looking at my notebook later, I noted that I had put down a huge exclamation point below the song name, and rightly so, as it has impressed me and moved me to tears each time I hear it.  Lisa Lambe was next with her fine rendition of, "A Spaceman Came Traveling".  I was so glad they put this one in, as it had been listed to be done at the December Christmas concert I attended in Denver, but it had been skipped that time.  Chloe and Susan then did "Walking the Night" with Lisa coming in for "The World Falls Away" with incredible harmony and notes that just pierce the heart.

     Next, Susan got to do another solo with "The Water is Wide" and again, she really hit it out of the park.  She really showed her power on the higher notes as she had in her earlier solo, but again, she held it in check most of the time.  This version, however, did not use bagpipes, but mainly had Mairead's violin instead.  Following that, we were delightfully surprised as Ray Fean came out playing his Bodhran drum in a wonderful extended drum solo where he showed what he could do in a rather comedic style that brought some laughter and a lot of applause as he worked the various sections of the audience from the stage.  At one point, he pulled the stick he was using well away from the drum and kept shaking it up as if trying to get it to stop playing, but the drum (drummed by the fingers of his other unseen hand) kept playing to his apparent annoyance!  I love the fact that at least some of the other musicians in the group have gotten a little more solo time during this tour.

     Finally, I got my chance.  I GOT TO SING WITH CELTIC WOMAN (well, sort of, as so did about 2,400 other people).  Chloe came out and started "educating" us to prepare for the chorus of "Green Grow The Rushes".  Of course, I didn't need any instruction, as most of us who are Celtic Woman fans can sing this song's chorus in our sleep!  We ran through the chorus for practice a couple of times, with Chloe giving her usual, "Some in the front have clearly done their homework", and "I have good news and bad news" speech about how well we were doing.   Eventually we got down to the song itself, and as usual, it sounded a lot better than it had on the DVD.

     While Chloe and Lisa had done some song introductions during the concert, it was time for Susan to "get her feet wet".  She stated that this was her first tour and she got a loud round of applause, clearly showing that the audience had accepted her.  She introduced, "Tribute to Broadway", mainly taking Lisa Kelly's part in the song.  It was simply fantastic.  In fact, the "Circle of Life" portion that Lisa Lambe did I thought was a little stronger than the one on the DVD, but that may just be due to the fact that this was a live performance.

     Next, it was time once again to get stunned out of my seat.  The lighting suddenly changed color to illuminate a very "red" Chloe at the very front of the stage.  The lighting effect was spectacular, and lead into her performance of "Ave Maria".  Now I had heard her do this in Denver at their Christmas concert, and it was stunningly beautiful with the symphony backing, but it was clear after hearing this live in Kansas City that they *really* could have used the Aontas Choir in Denver!  The piece I heard this night was simply amazing and incredibly beautiful.  The audience thought so too, as many people stood for a standing ovation as she finished.  After that, tears once again started flowing as "You'll Never Walk Alone" was performed.  Live, it just has an incredible impact that is impossible to get from a CD or DVD.  Mairead then did "Mna Na hEireann" (Women of Ireland), and just about brought the house down in the less "pastoral" part of the piece.  By that time, I think people's hands might have been getting a little sore from clapping to the song, as not as many were doing it (I was, of course, still doing it, as we are *supposed* to keep clapping).  

     Finally, there was a hint of sadness in the air as "The Parting Glass" signaled the approaching end to the concert.  Again, as with the concert's beginning, there was majesty and power in this song that makes it one of my favorites.  This piece just takes you out of your seat and into the song in a way that is hard to describe.  It was followed by one of the loudest standing ovations I have heard in anything less than a Nebraska home football game.  Of course, the Mo Ghile Mear finale then began, but it was a much longer and more highlighting performance, exhibiting the talents of each of the band's musicians almost separately (drums one minute, electric guitar the next, and, of course, Mairead's violin).  Again, it was followed by a standing ovation, but Chloe came out briefly and spoke to the crowd thanking us for the welcome and saying that they were going to send us out singing and dancing, which they promptly did with the short "At the Ceili" reprise that has ended a number of concert performances.

     I was on Cloud-9 the rest of the way home driving in a heavy rain but very very happy that this concert had exceeded my wildest hopes.  Hopefully, they will come within driving distance of me in the near future, but for now, all I can say is that I truly BELIEVE in Celtic Woman!

David Knisely                    
                  
    



        

  



      
« Last Edit: April 10, 2012, 11:34PM by David Knisely » Logged
Dinozzzo
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« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2012, 03:40AM »

Great review ! Grin
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greenfire6
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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2012, 08:47AM »

Outstanding review David. I liked it so much I read it three times.  Wink

Thanks for taking the time to write and post.
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CC
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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2012, 12:07PM »

Terrific review, David! Great detail and vivid descriptions. You made it easy to compare your experience in Kansas City with mine in Chicago. Thanks.

With regard to "A Spaceman Came Travelling" -- I absolutely love this song (even with the major scientific 'oops' in the second line)!!! I think the world of Lisa L and am rapidly becoming a serious fan. I was lucky enough to attend a Christmas Symphony concert in the Chicago area in December and the song was not part of that concert, either. I just assumed it wasn't in any of them, but I could be wrong. So, I was overjoyed to be able to watch and hear Lisa's breathtaking rendition of this beautiful song not once, but twice, at the Chicago concerts. In fact, it's my most special memory from Night 2.

Again, good job. Glad you took notes.
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tchristina23
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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2012, 10:43PM »

thanks for a wonderful review. I love reading most of them. It makes the anticipations so much more exciting.  From the visual of seeing a sillouette of Mairead on the steps with her violin under her chin, to hearing the first sounds, to the audience laughing with TA, and crying with a few other songs... I can hardly wait.. (I'm not gonna cry, I'm not gonna cry...)
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