The “Sold Out” signs taped to the doors were a sure sign that the Sunday night show was going to be grand. Every chair in the joint was taken, and there were fans crowded against the back of the hall, all, it seemed, whispering the same name, Natalie.
Laoise Kelly graced the stage first, with a set of three jigs written after spending nights inside fairy forts; a fine beginning for a magical night. Her nicely traditional sets gave way to a completely non-Celtic-by-any-means performance by Molly O’Brien, backed by her guitarist and husband Rich Moore. O’Brien’s clear, sultry voice dove straight into the depths of the blues, then into some pretty folk with “Lark in the Morning,” to a song anyone with a broken heart can identify with, “Lonely for a While.” Liz Doherty and her band brought the Celtic tradition back with a set of lively Donegal tunes. Joined by Andrea Beaton for two more blazing sets of pan-Celtic tunes, Doherty closed out the first half of the show.
Niamh Ni Charra , backed by former Lunasa guitarist Donogh Hennessy, alternated between “Charlie” her concertina, and her fiddle to share a couple of sets, including a lovely Galician piece, “The Blue Horse.” When Liz Doherty and Laoise Kelly joined her on stage, the pretty little tunes got cranked up several notches, and Ni Charra blazed away. O’Brien and Moore came on next, turning out an amazing rendition of “Saints and Sinners,” the title track of O’Brien and Moore’s new CD, backed by Ni Charra on Charlie. O’Brien and Moore finished the set with “Losers,” a ditty about five different sorts of losers.
You know you’re dealing with an icon, when she only needs one name. Lighting up the stage from the first note -0- and that was a quick tuning check — Natalie MacMaster owned the crowd. All around me, people hummed the tunes and whispered their names. Natalie and her pianist Tracey Dare MacNeill stomped their way through one fiery tune after another, their happy audience whooping and bouncing to urge them on. Utterly charming and funny, Natalie can turn the frustration of a broken fiddle string into pure entertainment. “I was so into it!” she wailed, and then, while restringing her fiddle, proceeded to regale her fans with snippets about her children until she was ready to start playing again. “Can I start again with the air?” she asked? She could start anywhere she wanted, and the audience would have gladly listened to it all.
Reviewed by C. Keegan