Thursday, March 19, 2009

Celtic Woman - Isle of Hope Tour on St. Patrick's Day

A few months ago I made a donation to Maryland Public Television and received two tickets to the Celtic Woman performance at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theater. It’s only fitting that we went on the night of St. Patrick’s Day. It was a nice and easy concert that was also tax deductible!

The name stays the same, the players are interchangeable, and the quality never waivers.

The show was a nice respite from the logistics of moving to our house, arranging service providers, and watching my bank account lose a few decimal places thanks to the settlement check. It was my first time at the Frances-Merc/Hippodrome theater and thought it was a decent venue. The lobby carpet was ugly and the restroom signage pointed us to a wall instead of telling us to turn right. The lobby layout served the area well enough with plenty of window viewing and $4 bottled water. My unknowledgeable ear thought the acoustics were fine.

The dresses were nice if you also like the styling of the prom dress clearance rack at Kohls. Well, maybe they weren't that bad and I just wanted to use that weak zingger.

When I took my seat inside the supposedly recently renovated theater, I immediately wished I for shorter femurs. Legroom was non-existent in our balcony seats. Orchestra rows didn’t look much better. Perhaps the theater’s renovation kept row spacing equivalent to a time when people weren’t over six feet. Or maybe they wanted to maximize revenue by jamming in the rows. My back was sore this morning from contorting my torso and angling my legs.

The fiddler was the star.

The audience was quick to clap before the show even started. They clapped after the 1) Maryland Public Television exec thanked us for donating; 2) stage announcer said the show would be starting in a minute; 3) lights went black; 4) lights came up; and 5) first singer began singing. I guess I’m just not a super Celtic Woman fan, but it seemed overkill when nothing had been done to warrant the clapping. Call me a selective clapper.

As much training as I have on Guitar Hero, I won’t be ready for the show’s drummer position…ever.

The stage looked tiny and not just because we were far away. Nevertheless, they used all available space and it worked just fine. The stage had room for two massive drumsets, an elevated standing area, piano, and two percussionists. At such a sing-heavy show, there was little need for a great expanse to move around. This wasn’t exactly a bubblegum pop Britney Spears spastic dancing spectacular.

When the singers spoke to the audience it was a bit phony, but they get an A for effort.

Despite sitting off to the right in row R, we had great sightlines. I couldn’t squint hard enough to see the singers’ lips move, but it was easy to see all performers. I was happy to have a clear view of the drummer and the 20+ piece drumset. He provided much needed entertainment during the songs I didn’t care for.

Acoustics sounded fine to my untrained ear

Of course the concert’s success rests on the voices and they didn’t disappoint. All of them sounded great. All of them were on key and pitch, and in harmony and melody, though I’m not sure what those terms really mean, I used to hear them on American Idol.

I recognized half of their setlist and was pleasantly surprised by the arrangement of some of those I was unfamiliar. They belted out tunes for two hours with a 20-minute intermission. The time went quickly for me and that’s saying something.

Come to the Hippodrome where you’ll enjoy poor blood circulation to your lower extremities.

Technically speaking, the show only had one error when the pianist and lighting crew were one song early, but they recovered after a few seconds of delay. I’d imagine it was an eternity for all involved. I was impressed by the variety of lighting and was duly unimpressed with the Hippodrome’s weak spotlight director. The left spotlights were not as bright as the right and it showed when all four women were on stage. The spotlight’s opening and closing were done incrementally and were not smooth.

The first act’s dresses were simple and elegant in orange, red, blue, and green…the orange was one-shoulder no less! I thought they were okay except for the awful orange one thanks to my hate for such unsymmetrical clothing. Of course the fiddler was in her flowing white. For the second act’s dresses, even I quickly recognized their hideousness. The material looked like shades of fire retardant foil. Good to know they’ll be safe when the theater catches fire.

“Fire retardant foil makes for a great dress,” said the foil’s product manager who was going to throw away the scraps.

Though all singers sang very well, the fiddler stole the show, if only because the four singers were, by design, indistinguishable. The fiddler was great, playing many notes and injecting much needed enthusiasm to the mostly low-key, but expected, setlist by the singers. Her dancing, with its high steps and spins, was fun, and reached a crescendo during combined fiddler and drummer solos.

No lip syncing here.

I know it’s a concert that’s about the singing, but the choreography was unimpressive. The girls would turn to a side and wave their straight arms down like waves when they weren’t walking between stage front and stage back. Is that all you can do when they have to belt out the tunes? The background singers in black were an afterthought, forming couples at times or just standing in a line behind the girls, as well they should, but still a little more creativity would help.

The consensus top pick in everyone’s fantasy fiddler league draft.

Of course we had no trouble hearing the concert. Volume was constant, except it seemed their bigger songs, played often during Maryland Public Television donation airings, were pumped up, almost to the point of being excessive. Otherwise their voices were strong and clear. A full setlist is found here.

Violin + Drummer + Voice = Good song

The performers got a few standing ovations at the end, thereby diluting the value of a standing ovation. I ended up standing and ovating in order to actually see the singers start their encore before getting to sit back down when those in front returned to their seats.

So to recap, the Celtic Woman – Isle of Hope concert in Baltimore offered beautiful women, singing with beautiful voices, wearing nice 1st act dresses and ugly 2nd act dresses, while I lost the feeling in my legs from tiny row spacing.


Anonymous said...

Dude your a bitch. I talk to Lisa very often and to hear you say how she had the ugliest dress shows how low you are. Why can't you just appreciate all the hard work these girls have went through to get to where they are.

B and T Crowd said...

I can and do appreciate the tremendous talent these performers have as I pay many compliments to their work throughout this blog entry. I just wasn't a fan of the dress, that's all.

Anonymous said...

your opinions are just that...what you think. I think the dresses were lovely and that the choreography was simple but learn that difficulty of musical literature and add even a little choreography is a great feat. I've been singing for more than 14 years...I would know.
And, Lisa;s dress, the orango one, was was perfect on her...and except for her gorgeous act II dress from the current tour, it has been a favorite.
Many people would love to go to a Celtic Woman concert...but cant afford it. Be happy that you got the chance to experience something so lovely.

Anonymous said...

I guess it depends if you have any class or not as to the wardrobe worn by the laddies on the night. You said it was difficult to see them, so I guess you also pictured the dresses more in your head then via your eye sight but as you had back row seating it is understandable. Yes I do agree that some aspects of the show don't always go to plan, and yes the women do now and then belt out the wrong word or two, but don't we all.
In any case, your entitle to your opinon and its seems balanced to me except for the fact of your distance from the stage.

B and T Crowd said...

I appreciate your fair and equal comment to this blog post...such a rarity online these days.