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Author Topic: Review: Voices of Ireland May 10th 2014  (Read 1904 times)
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« on: May 11, 2014, 05:14AM »

What an amazing night of Celtic Wom- uh, Lisa and Chloe, that's it!  This long-awaited and highly-anticipated event, dubbed "Voice of Ireland," was a concert that I knew I had to attend.  It would be a rare performance by Lisa Kelly and the very first live performance in North America by Chloe Agnew as an independent solo artist.  If not once-in-a-lifetime, it would certainly qualify as something that doesn't come up every day.

Originally the show had been billed as a Lisa Kelly presentation.  She had promised, however, that there would be special guests and surprises.  My motivation for going was partly to support Lisa, who had absolutely earned it, and also to be with some of her most ardent fans who I knew wouldn't miss a chance like this.  Then the word came that Chloe would be performing with Lisa, along with Paul Byrom.  The addition of Chloe was not a real surprise to me; the wonder was that Lisa's sister Helen wasn't going to be there too.  In any case, the addition of Chloe made my presence mandatory even if I had to hijack a train to get there.  Also this would expand the likely attendance of that many more fans for this summit-like event.  Before long we had over 50 fans committing to the show.

My itinerary was a little different this time: I decided to arrive Friday, and to depart Monday, which ended up being a good choice to avoid the worst of the weekend airport bustle.  This would give me more time to spend with people who would be arriving early and staying late, such as myself.  Also, for a change, I'd be lifting off at 11:24am; usually I fly out between 6 and 7am.  I was fearful of Houston Intercontinental's long
security lines, but there was no line at all when I got there, and I should have anticipated that: it was almost mid-morning when I arrived and the early rush was over.  Maybe late-morning departures were a good idea after all!  This flight was interesting in that there were flight attendants-in-training who did the safety presentation.

Arriving at Atlanta, I picked up my rental car, checked into my hotel, and drove down to meet Mike and Scott.  The three of us later headed back to the airport to pick up Patty and Evi for dinner at Longhorn's Steakhouse.  We were joined by Ginny Tripp, Karsten, Michael Britt, Dwight, and Jim Allen.  Of course some of the conversation was about what we might expect at the show the following day, but we had much else to talk about.  I found much especially to talk about with Michael Britt.  Myself, Scott, and the two Mikes sat up and talked until about 2 in the morning.

I got what sleep I could, and began the day by going to pick up Roy at the airport (it ended up being a good thing that I obtained a rental car) and then attending the fan gathering at Georgia Shrimp Company.  We had easily fifty people for the gathering, and I met several people for the first time, and a number of people that I hadn't seen in a long time.  It was essentially a mingle with people weaving around the room and talking together.  For myself I had extended talks with dear friends Daniel and Thomas, new friend Michael Payne and old friend Ryan who I hadn't seen in several years.  We also recorded a performance of us doing "Caledonia" with musical accompaniment.  We also signed a huge banner that would be given to the performers, and got a picture with all of us in front of the Voice Academy holding the banner.  Arriving at the venue itself I was also able to do my "good deed" for the day.

I had noticed about a week earlier that Caitlin from California was trying to sell several of her tickets for her table.  Although I already had my own table seat secured, I filed that information away in case someone wanted a pre-show upgrade.  Talking with Michael Britt and Ryan, I found that they both were buried in the reserved seating section of the venue.  I resolved to act as intermediary for them if Caitlin was still selling her extras.  As luck would have it, she was.  They both were quite willing to pay to upgrade and they joined her at her table with seats right at the foot of the stage.  They were happy to be so close, and Caitlin and her boyfriend Hawk were both happy to get something back for their tickets.  Everyone went home happy (or, in this case, arrived at the table happy haha).

Before I describe the venue, a quick profile of Peachtree City is in order.  When you hear the word "city," this is not what typically would come to mind.  This city has many trees and wooded areas surrounding it's shopping plazas, housing areas, and industrial parks.  Being in the temperate climate of Georgia, much of the year allows use of golf carts, and roadside trails are dedicated for their use.  There are no boarded up windows, no deserted strip malls, no graffitti.  It is a beautiful community, although it has one very glaring issue: there is not enough signage for businesses along the roadsides.

The Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater (the "Fred" for short) is, as the name implies, an amphitheater.  Open to the elements, it has a flat orchestra area that usually encloses a bunch of tables, each of which would seat six people.  Also, it has seating that rises back forty or more rows to the venue entrance.  Flanking either side of the reserved seats is a grass area that can be used for picnics.  The stage is about average height, with a drum kit and piano on opposite sides of the stage.  Several bars of lights are hung above the stage.  There was no curtain, but there were side-drapes.  Amphitheaters can have truly excellent sound (see Red Rocks) so I was very curious how the sound would play out here.  One thing we were concerned about was rain; fortunately that was not a significant issue.

In any case, inside and outside the venue I talked to plenty more fans, including Tink and Coren, Melissa, and Susan from Houston (who I hadn't seen in a couple years).  I also got a quick hug from Cindy.  I settled into my seat at Mike's table, in the second "row" of tables over to stage left, drum-side.  Caitlin's table was directly in front of me.  I would have Ryan, Michael Britt, Caitlin, Taylor Gibson, Mike, Scott, Roy, Jim Allen, and Roy Krauss all around me.  The way the seats around the tables were arranged (there was very little room between the tables) I was essentially sitting with Caitlin on my left and Mike on my right.  And for those keeping score at home, for this show I wore my Pink Chloe shirt, a leftover from Red Rocks last year.  I wore this because it was the one shirt I had that featured Chloe, and tonight of all nights I wanted to honor her.

We were treated to two opening acts, one was a piano player/singer who did a bunch of songs that I'd never heard before, and a trio that did Celtic music (a female fiddle player, a male Uiellian piper, and a male acoustic guitar player).  They also did much music that I hadn't heard before, although they did do one sing I knew: Scotland the Brave!  Scott Porter also came out and introduced the show with some eloquence.

And now, for what I'm sure you've been waiting for, here is "Voices of Ireland:"

On the piano side, a fiddle player and guitar player also took position, while in front of the drum kit, a bass guitar player wearing a ball cap also took station.  An "adult" choir stepped out near the piano, and who should we see in the back row but old friend Dermot!  He smiled as several people called out his name.  A sample of "May It Be" began and then out stepped Lisa Kelly and she began "She Moved Through the Fair!!"  Lisa got a rousing standing ovation upon her entrance; this was to be expected though as there were nearly a hundred rabid fans in the floor section alone!

"Caledonia" was next.  In the last 12 months I've heard three different live versions of this song by three different performing acts; Lisa's was much like what she had done in times past.  It was time for another well-deserved standing ovation.

Lisa chatted with us for a minute about what Peachtree City means to her, and she mentioned that the people further back would need to emulate the people up near the front, and by that she meant the fan community.  She then introduced a song she'd loved for many years: "Summer Fly".  This was a song I'd never warmed up to before when Hayley had done it on one of her solo CDs, but Lisa did fantastic with it!  It was bit more jazzy than countryish, more like what I think the song should be.  Yes, a standing ovation was in order again... this was getting to be a habit...

The next song is one I'd only heard done before once, and I immediately thought of several of my friends in the fan community who love show tunes: "For Good" from the musical Wicked.  Lisa began and, as we received the only rain of the entire night, Chloe Agnew stepped out amidst another rousing standing ovation.  It was beautiful to hear these two ladies sing together again!!

When Lisa left, Chloe stuck around and treated us to a solo song: "Hero," a song originally popularized by Mariah Carey.  I've heard the original version many times but Chloe absolutely put Mariah to shame; her power was on display for one and all to hear.

I'd never heard "Let It Go," which Lisa proceeded to sing.  I'd love to hear it again though.

Paul Byrom now took center stage.  He brought down the house with his hilarious jokes but then sang "Danny Boy."  Really, how could a "Voices Of Ireland" show be complete without that?

Lisa and Chloe performed "Wake Me Up;" this was another song that I didn't know.  But interesting presence on this song was Lisa's husband, Scott Porter, doing a dance.  I'd never seem him dance before and was curious to see what he could do.  Not surprisingly, the guy can still dance like in his Riverdance days!

Colin Farrell (no, not that Colin Farrell, but their fiddler who Lisa said was "much better looking than the OTHER one!") did a piece that I'd never heard but it energized the crowd when the other instruments joined in.  Maybe someday I'll get the name of this one.

Lisa introduced a song that she said her husband Scott had been begging her to sing for years: "My Heart Will Go On."  In the interest of full disclosure, I thoroughly disliked the original by Celine; this one was done with an almost identical arrangement.  I really loved Lisa's version!  This was by far the best version of this song I'd ever heard, including a couple versions done in karaoke years ago.

Chloe came back out and began singing "Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears."  In the space of three months I'd been able to hear two of my favorite vocalists - Eabha McMahon and Chloe Agnew - perform this song live; Paul did the second stanza and Lisa the third, by then joined by the Voice Academy singers.  During the song I reflected for a moment, as I always do when I hear this song while seated next to Mike, of the trip we took together to Ellis Island.  And then it was intermission.

Lighting was excellent; Lisa later mentioned that Tom Kenney was working the lighting for this show and many of us remembered him doing lighting in years past.  But it was the sound that was the real story here; the sound was excellent and rivaled the absolute best that I'd ever experienced at indoor theaters.  The crowd was really two crowds: the people at the tables were going totally nuts, while the people in the reserved seating and in the picnic area were participatory but not really in the "nut" category.  Among us "nuts" the consensus was universal: this had been a masterpiece of a first half.

WOW.  Lisa's green dress to open the second act was absolutely stunning!!  And... "The Voice!!!!!"  Pretty much done the way you all remember it.

If there was one thing I was totally expecting in this show, it was a Chloe and Lisa duet.  I thought it'd be a toss-up between "Green Grow the Rushes" or "The World Falls Away."  Well, "Green Grow the Rushes" it was.  Just as in 2011 at the Believe Taping, the girls "trained" us to sing it.  One thing I totally didn't expect was when Chloe looked right at me, smiled, and pointed when she sang one of her lines.  Over the years, I've had my share of special Chloe moments, but this one will always be very special.

But Chloe wasn't through yet.  From the opening strains of "Ave Maria" I smiled with serenity.  I had hoped and prayed that this song would be included, as it is one of my favorite Chloe songs.  She did it differently, as there was no choir on stage with her, so the "bridge" portion was omitted.  The omission was so startling that at first I thought Chloe had screwed up; but as Mike pointed out later, when you hear something you've heard many times over suddenly done differently, it can be jarring even if it correct.  That was the case here; believe me, there was NO mistake from Chloe on this night of all nights.  As for a standing ovation... wouldn't you?

"Fields of Gold!!!!"  Yes, another solid Lisa song from times past!  This one was actually the first song of the night to NOT get a standing ovation, and then only because Lisa withdrew from the stage as she was finishing, so she wasn't there to receive an ovation.  haha That was about the only way to break the streak of standing ovations!

Paul returned to the stage and did "Bring Him Home."  I'd never heard this song before, but WOW!!!!!!  I would love to hear more of Paul's work on the basis of this song alone.

Paul then introduced "Irish royalty": Chloe.  They did a duet of "The Prayer."  Now THIS was taking this song to full potential.  I'd never been entirely pleased with the duet versions of this song, but... fantastic performance.  They need to do this again.

"Tell Me Ma" was another song I didn't know, and this one featured a certain young man of the Porter family dancing with a little girl!  Very cute!

Lisa satisfied quite a few of her fans with her next one: "The Blessing."  Just her and the piano, the way it should be.  She also referenced Mothers Day, which was fitting.

A totally different tempo was set with "Moondance."  This was done as a duet by Lisa and Paul, with a flirtatious feeling to it, and ended with them singing their way off-stage and pulling the back cover-curtain closed behind them; hilarious and appropriate for the song.  I liked this song because it was also appropriate to the venue; in an open-air amphitheater, this was a good song to do even on a moonless night like tonight.

There followed then a vigorous, amazing dance "competition" between Scott Porter and Aaron Tolson, as each attempted to win the audience; lets say they won a two-way tie haha.

Lisa then did an unfamiliar lead-in which segued into "Over the Rainbow."  Mike told me later that he had heard that same lead-in when Alex Sharpe had done it.  Either way, a beautiful rendition of the song.

It's time for "You Raise Me Up" so soon??  And yes, in this show they did do it, so it was not simply a case of Deja vu.  Paul began, with the entire company on the stage, and sang the two lines that, more than any others ever sang, have defined my journey as a fan: "Then I am still, and waiting in the silence/Until you come and sit awhile with me."  I thought of all the wonderful fans who couldn't be here with us tonight, many of whom I had messaged with.  They each were there in spirit with me as Paul sang those lyrics.  Lisa sang the chorus part of the song, and Chloe did the "added" stanza that begins: "There is no life/No life without it's hunger..."  The Voice Academy singer arrangement was much like the PS22 arrangement they had done in 2010.  I never liked that arrangement at all, but the saving grace of this one was the kids on stage for this performance were fun to watch.  Lisa of course said "Thank you so much, you've been a wonderful audience," as we all erupted into applause and screams and standing ovations.  Again, dear absent fans, you were there in spirit; this was for you.

Lisa introduced and thanked the performers. Maybe it was fitting that they ended with the catchy, fun "Happy."  Lisa came back out on stage wearing a Voice Academy tshirt.  One of the most energizing songs you'll ever hear!!  At the end, Scott asked if maybe we'd like to see it again next year, and he got a wailing scream for an answer.  And finally it was over as the lights came up.  As the stage was being broken down, Scott Porter came over and talked to the fans at the edge of the stage.

All of us were blown away.  Not one member of the fan community was dissatisfied with this show.  And there was no easy way to describe this show. The performances had been at times hilarious, fun, electric, and uplifting.  The show in total had been poignant, touching, and genuine.  I will add one more word: essential.  This was show that many of us needed.  Not just because we had longed to see the team of Lisa Kelly and Chloe Agnew working together again, but also because many of us needed this inspiration right about now.  I think we got it.

We headed over to the local IHOP.  There were over thirty of us, all talking on and on about the show.  Finally though the time came to depart.  There were MANY hugs and a lot of well-wishes as the extended family of fans headed their separate ways. The bonds of friendship of our fan community last far beyond the distance and time until we meet again.  That's what our fan community is, and always will be, all about.

« Last Edit: May 11, 2014, 05:18AM by Scott » Logged

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