Concert Review: The Chieftains

The Smith Center, Feb. 18

Over five decades, these Irish folk legends have created a lasting genealogy by which to understand traditional Celtic music. Listen to any of their almost 50 albums, and you could walk into any Irish pub and hold your own … at least in regards to the music you’d likely find there.

So it was at The Smith Center, where the band of “brothers” and “sisters” of varying ages and originating countries (Paddy Moloney, Kevin Conneff and Matt Molloy being the only original members) played reels, jigs and ballads that could bring you to your feet and then bring you to tears. Scottish vocalist Alyth McCormack was sublime, particularly on her haunting rendition of “Carrickfergus.” Traditional Irish dancers, including local students of the Martin Percival School of Irish Dance, gracefully blended Gaelic gypsy rhythm with Moloney’s ethereal pipe-playing. The Desert Skye Pipes & Drums band appeared twice during the evening, adding a sonic wall of bagpipe wonderfulness to the song “March to Battle” as well as to the grand finale. Fifty years since debuting on the world stage, the Chieftains still know how to revive an Irish heart with a bodrhan’s beat. ★★★★☆