The Chieftains January 27, 2007
The Chieftains at Cerritos, Great as Always
By Glen Creason
One can always expect the unexpected when the Chieftains come for their annual visit to Cerritos. In their storied four decades the fellows have mastered the art of the concert and find new ways to make each one unique. In local shows they have brought us Galician pipes, Japanese stringed instruments, legendary guitarists, fabulous fiddle players and contemporary singers as fresh as the 21st century. There has never been a dud, never even a sour note in the history of the group’s forays into this neck of the freeways.
On Saturday night the Chieftains brought some surprises once again but went small and beautiful to expound some of the greatest music in creation. The show had a decided feminine touch that was easy on the eyes as sure as it was on the ears. The group still centers on Paddy Moloney’s uilleann pipes, Matt Molloy’s fiery flute, Kevin Conneff’s fine traditional vocals and Sean Keane’s velvety fiddle. However, there was no Keane or explanation on this night. Googling revealed he had to bow out due to illness. The flat on the fourth wheel was more than ably replaced on this night by comely Maureen Fahey who was a triple threat; singing, dancing and playing wonderfully. Without celebrities or powerhouse names the gentlemen went for youth, bringing the pulchritudinous, six-woman Liadan from the mother country, superb harpist Trina Marshall and young Ryan McNeil to tackle the full-figured keyboards. The aces in the hole of this show were the electrifying-dancing Pilatzke brothers from Ottawa and bonnie Irish step-dancing Cara Butler.
While he and brother Nathan were not flashing fancy Ottawa valley footwork Jon Pilatske played some fine fiddle himself fleshing out a stage full of musicians all on the same Celtic page. There were some exceptions including “Santiago” from Cuba, a splash of the Rolling Stones “Satisfaction,” some sweet film score sounds from both “Barry Lyndon,” (the classic Women of Ireland), the television series “The Long Journey Home” and a pulse-quickening “Cotton Eyed Joe” from the U.S.A. by way of the album “the Old Plank Road.”
Kevin Conneff sang a lovely “Flower of Magherelly,” Liadan broke out with the jocular “P Stands for Paddy” and Matt Molloy astounded the hall with his brisk “Lord McDonald” after the silky “Easter Snow.” Surprises were even in store for Mr. Moloney as a bevy of girls from the McCartan school of Irish dance appeared in gorgeous traditional dress during a set of second half reels. All eight local girls together probably did not reach Paddy’s number of years but they certainly livened up the stage. This was also the case with every appearance of the Pilatskes and Cara Butler who veered from the instruments to perform a marvelous dance number “the Step Crew” incorporating Irish traditional, Ottawa valley step-dancing and American tap. Musical highlights were most certainly a non-identified air by Trina Marshall on harp and the curtain-chasers on both ends of the show in “the Rocky Road to Dublin” and a rousing, all-involved grand-finale of “McClouds Reel” aka “Did You Ever Go a Courtin’ Uncle Joe…” Like most Irish conversations, there was more. The delighted full house was able to go forth on this night humming happily into suitably Irish weather. As the writer said about the emerald isle “we may have bad weather in Ireland but the sun shines in the hearts of people and keeps us warm.”