Irish Tours

U2 announce Joshua Tree tour of Australia

Bono and The Edge: ‘It’s going to feel like a homecoming’

Bono and The Edge: ‘It’s going to feel like a homecoming’

U2 return to Australia in November for the first time in nine years.

The Dublin quarter will bring their Joshua Tree show to Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds as support.

The show features all the songs from the seminal 1987 album The Joshua Tree, performed in the order they appeared on the original recording.

Bono said “It’s only taken me 30 years to learn how to sing these songs and it’s great to be able to say that I’ve finally caught up with the band.

“Our audience has given the Joshua Tree a whole new life on this tour. Doing these shows has been very special for us, a lot of emotion… From the despair of how relevant some of the dark songs still are, to the joy, pure fun of the staging… it’s quite a ride.

“And now we get to do it all over again. Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Sydney, Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul… We’re coming for you”.

U2’s Joshua Tree tour has already been seen by almost three million fans.

U2’s Joshua Tree tour has already been seen by almost three million fans.

“We really, really wanted to bring The Joshua Tree to New Zealand, Australia and Asia” added The Edge. “We promised we would and finally, now we can say that we will see you in November... It’s going to feel like a homecoming and we are very excited”. 

It will be the first U2 tour of Australia since the hugely-successful 360° Tour in 2010. 

The Joshua Tree Tour 2019 kicks off in Auckland on November 8 before their first Australian show in Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on November 12.

Marvel Stadium in Melbourne hosts the band on Friday, November 15 before an Adelaide Oval show on Tuesday, November 19.

The Sydney Cricket Ground is the next venue for the band on Friday November 22 before the Australian leg wraps up at Perth’s new Optus Stadium on Wednesday, November 27.

Tickets for the shows go on sale on Tuesday June 11. U2.com subscribers will have first opportunity to purchase tickets starting Tuesday June 4.

The Joshua Tree Tour is a celebration of the original album and tour of the same name undertaken by U2 in 1987 and features the complete album played in sequence along with a selection of highlights from U2’s extensive catalogue of songs.

The innovative staging includes a specially commissioned series of haunting and evocative films from Dutch photographer, film-maker  and longtime collaborator Anton Corbijn – whose iconic photography accompanied the original recording  - in brilliant 8k resolution on a 200 x 45 foot cinematic screen, the largest high-res LED screen ever used in a touring show.

The show opened to rave reviews in Vancouver, Canada in May 2017 - the first of 20 sold out stadium dates across North America. The sold out Eureopean run kicked off in London’s Twickenham Stadium on July 8 and saw the Dublin band return home to play to 78,000 fans in Croke Park, almost 30 years to the day after they played the legendary Dublin venue on the original Joshua Tree tour.

Having played to over 2.7 million fans in just 51 shows across North and South America, the UK and Europe, and Mexico in six months, The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 was the most successful tour of the year.

Dylan Moran returns for national tour

Dylan Moran returns in October for his first Aussie tour in four years.

Dylan Moran returns in October for his first Aussie tour in four years.

Dylan Moran returns to Australia for a national tour in October.

It’s the hugely popular Meathman’s first Aussie tour in four years.

Moran will once again offer his unique take on love, politics, misery and the everyday absurdities of life in his new show Dr Cosmos.

The Sydney show, at the Opera House, will be part of the Just For Laughs Sydney Comedy Festival.  Tickets go on sale Tuesday 14 May at 9am.

Moran, who like fellow comics Tommy Tiernan and Hector Ó hEochagáin was born in Navan, has been called the Oscar Wilde of comedy for his deadpan, witty and lyrical style.

He first came to prominence in 1996 at the Edinburgh Fringe, becoming the youngest ever winner of the Perrier Award.  He went on to co-write and star in Black Books which won two BAFTAs. 

Other notable screen roles include Notting HillCalvaryShaun of the Dead and Run Fatboy Run.

Moran, who now calls Edinburgh home, has toured the world many times, including versions of his show as far afield as Kazakhstan, Ukraine and across the US.  

His last tour, Off the Hook, took in 149 dates across the globe and was the second biggest comedy tour in Australian history after Billy Connolly.

For tour dates and venues, visit www.abpresents.com.au

Snow Patrol for August 'acoustic' tour

Snow Patrol return to Australia in August for an acoustic tour.

Snow Patrol return to Australia in August for an acoustic tour.

Snow Patrol return to Australia this coming August on the ‘Live and Acoustic’ tour which visits Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne, and sees the band performing for the first time at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.

Fresh on the heels of their North American stadium tour with Ed Sheeran,  and appearances at Lollapalooza Chile and Brazil , the Australian shows see the Irish rockers performing as a three-piece featuring singer and guitarist Gary Lightbody, Johnny McDaid on guitar, piano and vocals and Nathan Connolly also on guitar and vocals.

According to promoters Live Nation, Snow Patrol will be performing songs live “as you’ve never heard them before” and all their best known hits will be included in the set-list.

Over a 25-year career, Snow Patrol has carved out a unique place for themselves.

Since their 1998 debut, Songs for Polarbears, Snow Patrol’s melancholy anthems of heartbreak and separation have mended hearts, and the band have emerged as musical prophets striking a chord in the minds and memories of listeners over six ground-breaking, confessional albums.

The band has racked up an impressive number of critical and commercial accolades, including more than 16 million global album sales, more than one billion global track streams, five UK Platinum Albums, as well as Grammy and Mercury Music Prize nominations. 

With an equally huge fan base here in Australia Snow Patrol have received eight platinum ARIA accreditations and continue to be one of Australia’s biggest selling International artists.

Tickets go on sale at noon on Monday, May 13. Fan pre-sale from 11am Thursday, May 9 until 11am Monday, May 13. My Live Nation members can secure tickets first during the exclusive pre-sale beginning 11am Friday, May 10 until 11am Monday, May 13.

Full tour details from Live Nation.

Final curtain call for Boyzone, Ireland's pop supergroup

Boyzone on stage in Belfast in January at the start of their Thanks You & Goodnight tour.

Boyzone on stage in Belfast in January at the start of their Thanks You & Goodnight tour.

Boyzone, Ireland’s first true pop supergroup, are ready to take their final curtain call.

More than two decades since they first got together, the band are about to tour Australia for one last time when they arrive with their Thank You & Goodnight tour this weekend.

The 'boys', now all in their 40s, have decided to let go of the vehicle that brought them huge success.

Boyzone burst onto the scene in 1994, scoring hits in the UK and Irish charts with songs like Love Me for a Reason, Key to My Life, Picture of You, Father and Son, Words and Baby Can I Hold You.

Shane Lynch reflects on the early days, describing their sudden fame as “a hell of a ride”.

"I was 17 years old and kind of catapulted around the world just not really knowing what lay ahead, just being on a crazy adventure,” he tells the Irish Echo from Dublin. “But I was lucky enough to experience some major things with the other boys. Some of it is very vivid and some of it is very poignant in my life and then some of it is a distant memory like it never even happened."

Put together by pop mogul Louis Walsh in 1993, the band was originally made up of Ronan Keating, Keith Duffy, Stephen Gately, Mikey Graham and Lynch. Although some of them had promising careers and sports scholarships, the five lads from Dublin gave these up to pursue a career in music. They quickly became the biggest pop group to have ever come out of Ireland.

"I think the magic times for Boyzone were, without a shadow of a doubt, the 90's that brought us our huge success. I think probably the best memories for me is when we got back together in '07, '08, those kind of times when we were fresh in our minds and it wasn't such a mad ride anymore.

Boyzone on stage (from left) Shane Lynch, Mikey Graham, Ronan Keating and Keith Duffy.

Boyzone on stage (from left) Shane Lynch, Mikey Graham, Ronan Keating and Keith Duffy.

“The way music worked had changed and you weren't really going from radio station to radio station anymore. It all became a lot easier in the noughties and I think those are kind of the best memories for me. The blur factor of the 90's, it's hard to pinpoint anything that was a highlight as such. I think the highlights really came in our older stages and just being able to enjoy being a band."

Lynch, who took part in last year's Celebrity Big Brother and also regularly competes in motor racing, says the current farewell tour has been a great excuse to hang out with his old mates.

“We really don't get to hang out anymore, it's only a blessing if our paths cross at any point. We don't get to call around, 'you wanna play football?' It's not like that. When you have children, it just all gets a bit distant. It's almost like a continuous stag weekend when you go on a tour, it's a celebration of the joyous moments. We're very blessed to be able to do it."

Over the years, the 42-year-old has also come to terms with previously undiagnosed dyslexia which, he reveals, made it very difficult for him to read tour schedules or autocues in the early days.

"It was the 80's when I went to school, dyslexia wasn't really a thing and it was just more that you couldn't read and write or you were a troubled kid or whatever.

"I was able to hide it for those (Boyzone) years and it was just as I became older, I found my real confidence to be able to say, 'Actually, you know what? I actually can't do what you guys do'.

“All the Boyzone boys didn't know for many, many years. As it turned out: Yeah, I'm massively dyslexic. I wish I took that journey on that path many, many years ago. A lot of people say the school system let me down and all that stuff, it really didn't. I let myself down. I'm the one who didn't say anything.

"It became a great thing in the end because it built my character into who I am today in a survival test of things. That said, life could have been very difficult and it can be very difficult for people out there who can't read and write and are scared to go back.

“They're horrible times and horrible memories, those kind of schooling times so to go to adult education or to find out you can get to read and write the older you get, it's a lengthy process but I would advise anyone out there who has any sort of problem like that, not to be afraid."

The other members of Boyzone have had differing levels of success since the original split in 2000.

Ronan Keating, 42, has enjoyed huge success as a solo artist and spends a lot of time in Australia with his second wife Storm, a Queenslander. He has also appeared on a number of Australian TV shows including All Together Now and X Factor.

Keith Duffy, 44, has been acting on screen and stage since breaking into a new career with a part in the long-running TV soap, Coronation Street.

Mikey Graham, 46, trained as an actor after Boyzone split in 2000 and has made a number of TV appearances including in TV3’s Celebrity Apprentice Ireland.

The group were hit by tragedy in 2009 when original member Stephen Gately died of natural causes. He was 33 years old. The band, the nation and the world were shocked by his untimely death. Lynch says Gately continues to inspire the remaining Boyzone members.

"It's coming up to ten years now that we've lost Stephen and ten years is a long time and without a doubt, time is a great healer. What we try to do in our show is to make it a celebation of Stephen also.

“He was an amazing part of Boyzone, amazing character and without a doubt very much missed amongst us as a group, let alone as a friend gang and a guy that I would have grown up with.

“The way to miss him, it's not necessarily a tear to the eye, it's more of a smile. There's a lot of emotion for sure that runs through the crowd and certainly has done on this tour. It gave different emotions to different people and I think that's what music does, that's exactly what music is all about. When we meet up and we talk about Steo, we celebrate Steo. It delivers different impacts for different people but for us guys, we're definitely there to celebrate it."

While Lynch savours those early days of Boyzone he ‘lost it’ on The Late Late Show last year when host Ryan Tubridy showed a clip of the band’s cringeworthy first appearance on the show 25 years ago.

“I’ve busted my bollocks to get here. See that clip? You can shove it up your fucking hole,” Lynch told Tubridy on the live show.

Lynch laughs when asked about the outburst.

"You know what it was? It's kind of plain and simple and I, as a grown man, perhaps should have expressed myself in a little bit more of a controlled way but I guess I had had enough at that point. We all kind of lash out at times.

"My frustration was they invited us onto the show to celebrate Boyzone and talk about the great 25 years and to give us a real boost.

“The first thing they do is try and take you down or take you back to a time that was not nice for you. What I mean by that is The Late Late Show as we all know is not Boyzone's best time in life ever, it's actually the worst so it's like being reminded of being the dumb kid in school, the fat kid in school, the ugly kid in school. That was a hard time in Boyzone's life so to be kind of kicked in the bollocks by your own TV show, the biggest TV show in Ireland and to regress you back to those times was, I thought, very unfair. I think it was a nasty thing to do, it was like bullying at its highest level. Laugh it off because it's a TV show? No, I just felt I was being bullied at that point and I guess I came out kicking and screaming or expressed myself the way I did. That's just how I felt at the time."

Boyzone kick off their farewell tour at HBF Stadium in Perth on March 30 before performing at Adelaide Entertainment Centre on April 2, Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne on April 3, ICC Theatre in Sydney on April 5 and finally, The Star in the Gold Coast on April 6 and 7.

Dublin comedy trio set to overdose on craic

Sean Finegan, Conor McKenna and Sean Flanagan are Foil, Arms and Hog.

Sean Finegan, Conor McKenna and Sean Flanagan are Foil, Arms and Hog.

“Can’t wait, really excited about it.” Sean Finegan of Foil, Arms & Hog says he and his mates are chomping at the bit to bring their sketch comedy show Craic-ling to Australia.

“Dying to get out there just to see how the material goes down with a crowd that has been asking us to come for a long time. We’re very excited.”

The comedy trio have only performed in Australian once before, at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in 2017.

“We did the fringe there for a month. We were gigging four times a night. Nobody knew us and we lost a fortune but had a brilliant time. That’s the last time we were in Australia. We arrived in the middle of a 40-degree heatwave and it melted us but didn’t deter us from coming back.”

FInegan is one third of Foil, Arms & Hog alongside Sean Flanagan and Conor McKenna. The trio write, shoot and edit a new sketch every week to release on Facebook and YouTube.

It’s a formula that has given the trio a massive online following and, one suspects, a steady income. For example, their brilliant take on Brexit, with Britain and Europe portrayed as a divorcing couple has clocked up more than 450,000 views.

In the stage show Craic-ling the trio conducts a class on how to hold a baby, sings a Gregorian chant about life as a monk and re-enacts the assassination of a classically trained actor. Chortle.co.uk described the show as “an effervescent hour of fast-paced gags, fizzing with energy, invention and great lines”.

How would Finegan describe the show for the uninitiated?

“It’s sketch comedy. People think certain things when they hear sketch comedy. In Ireland, there’s no sketch comedy scene whatsoever so when we started out; we started doing stand-up sets. There was no opportunity for any lights or sound, it just had to be funny. It’s very quick, off the bat. We would go sketch to sketch and we started to interact with the audience. It’s kind of like a blend between stand-up and sketch comedy as most people think of it. There’s no overarching theme. Instead of a random series of jokes, we do a random series of sketches, whatever we think are funny.

“People think it’s going to be similar to the online videos but it’s nothing like that. The stuff on stage is way whackier, weirder, much more out there.”

Finegan says they have no idea how the gags will go down, Down Under.

“We have one sketch where three guys join a monastery, become monks and they become really bored really quickly.

“Buckfast is an alcoholic drink made by monks and they find that. I don’t know. How familiar are people in Australia with monasteries? Should we be worried?”

How do the trio decides which material is for their online fans (they have 900,000 followers on Facebook) and what will go on stage?

“The wordier stuff works really well for video. The stuff that works on stage tends to be the bigger world ideas, like crazy stuff you couldn’t film without a Hollywood budget but, with a blank space, the audience can imagine whatever they want.

“The weirder and wilder stuff really bring the crowd into it as well.

“It might take us a week to work on a video for the internet but it would take us two or three months just to write one sketch for stage, it’s just so much more difficult. The standard is so much higher for stage for what you watch on screen but it’s what we enjoy doing more even though it’s harder, the rewards are so much bigger.”

The trio first came together in 2008 while they were still students at University College Dublin. The name evolved from their respective nicknames. Sean Finegan was the comedy ‘foil’. Conor McKenna was ‘all arms and legs’ and Sean Flanagan ostensibly hogged the limelight.

Finegan says he hopes to see a big Irish turnout at the Aussie shows.

“We did a gig in London. It was a really big gig for us in the Hammersmith Apollo and a load of Irish living in London came out and it was almost like this reunion party. It turned into this mad Irish night out. It’s like you’re playing in the World Cup and you’ve got a great travelling support.”

The last time they were in Australia, an elderly Irishman at one of their Adelaide shows was so taken with them, he tried to give them money after the gig.

“He had been living in Australia his whole life and after the show he came up to us and put a pile of money into our hands and he says, ‘Thank you so much for reminding me of home; you’ve taken me back’. We were like, ‘What? This is ridiculous for a silly comedy show’.

“It’s comedy, there’s no messages involved with it but to create something emotional in someone was really nice.”

Foil Arms & Hog kick off their Australian tour in Melbourne on April 9 before performing three shows in Sydney from April 23. The first two Sydney shows are already sold out.

Talented tenor trio poised for national tour

The Celtic Tenors, from left Matthew Gilsenan, from Meath, Daryl Simpson, from Omagh and James Nelson, from Sligo.

The Celtic Tenors, from left Matthew Gilsenan, from Meath, Daryl Simpson, from Omagh and James Nelson, from Sligo.

A little more than a year after their first extensive tour of Australia The Celtic Tenors are headed back down under.

The Celtic Tenors are one of Ireland’s most popular classical crossover acts. They have been performing together for almost two decades and have sold more than a million albums worldwide.

Australia is relatively new territory for the trio, although they have toured here with Celtic Woman. They are well established in the US and Canada.

“We’re a little bit late to the party [in Australia],” Matthew Gilsenan tells The Irish Echo. “We’ve been together as a group for 20 years but last year was the first time we did anything meaningful in Australia. We love it.

“There’s so many Irish, half the country lives in Australia at the moment. We can’t wait to get back.

Gilsenan acknowledges that the genre is crowded but points to the longevity of their success as validation of their appeal.

“There’s lots and lots of tenor groups out there and we’ve been around longer than any of them but we’ve kept the head down and kept it small. We didn’t have the resources to go as far as Australia early on.

“The fact that we managed to survive this long and still be productive is great. We’ve just finished our ninth studio album.”

The Celtic Tenors combine classical with pop and perform Irish classics but, as Gilsenan explains, the combination is unique.

“It’s not quite what it says on the tin. We’re called the Celtic Tenors but about 10 years in we said, ‘We should have called ourselves something else’. We don’t do too much of the tenoring. Yes, we do Nessun Dorma and we do the big belter operatic things but only a bit. We’re very proud of our great Irish songwriters, from Declan O’Rourke to Phil Coulter, to Kodaline and the Script. A good song is a good song and that’s what we come to sing.”

On this tour they will perform The Irish Songbook that will include Song For Ireland, Danny Boy, You Raise Me Up and more favourites.

This is also very much the flavour of their forthcoming album: “It’s kind of the album we should have made the very first time out with songs like I’ll Tell Me Ma, Carrickfergus, The Parting Glass and The Rocky Road to Dublin. Many of these songs we’ve kind of avoided because everyone has done them and if we were going to be giving them a go at all, we would want to get fairly good at what we’re doing.

“I think 20 years in we’re beginning to feel almost like it’s a coming of age and have enough maturity to make musical calls.”

The Celtic Tenoes have performed for everyone from Bill Clinton to Bono.

The Celtic Tenoes have performed for everyone from Bill Clinton to Bono.

Gilsenan, from Meath, and James Nelson, from Sligo, have been members of The Celtic Tenors since the start. The third member, Daryl Simpson, from Omagh, replaced Niall Morris in 2006.

The Meathman believes the fact that they are not locked into one setlist keeps it interesting for them as performers and entertaining for their audiences.

“Because we haven’t written our own music so much, we tend to cycle through songs that we think are great songs. And the ones that are truly great songs are the ones that feel like we’re doing them for the first time every night and we still enjoy them,” he says.

“It’s a huge plus for us as performers. If you’re performing something that you’re sick of doing it’s going to come across. We never do anything we don’t like. That’s what surprises: the content of the show, the craic that we have. It’s a non-scripted show. We’re kind of ordinary fellas.

“We’re not overly classical, we’re not overly Irishy, it’s just a good night of quality music. We don’t take ourselves seriously at all.”

Playing to expat audiences is always rewarding, Gilsenan says, and the degrees of separation with home are always few in number.

“An old man came to one of our shows a few years back,” he recalls.

“He said, ‘I noticed your name was Gilsenan. Did you ever hear of a man called Matt Gilsenan from Meath, the football player? That’s why I came, I recognised your name’. My grandfather was Matt Gilsenan. He was the captain of the Leinster football team in 1939 and they won the Railway Cup. He said, ‘I played with your grandfather in 1942’. And I said, ‘My God, that’s amazing’. He said, ‘Well, I left in 1945 and I never came home’.

“He wrote a little note to my grandfather who was the absolute definition of a hard man. But he was really, really gobsmacked when he got this. It’s quite emotional the stories that you come across, it’s unreal.”

What does Gilsenan consider the best compliment the group has been paid in 20 years?

“I remember we sang for Bill Clinton at an event in Dublin Castle. It was marking the fact that the Good Friday Agreement seemed to have stuck, so we were singing for Bill Clinton; Bertie Ahern was Taoiseach at the time, so he was there. Bono and Bob Geldof were there; President [Mary] Robinson and all these people.

“Three days later, we get a phone call from Bono’s office to ask if we would sing at a private birthday party for him so he obviously thought our version of Danny Boy was good enough. He asked us to sing five or six songs as a birthday gift for [the late Secretary General of the United Nations] Kofi Annan’s wife. He was a lovely man and his wife was even nicer.”

Part of the fun of performing is to reconnect with audiences and, Gilsenan says the trio treat their fans as friends.

“Young pop groups have fans; we tend to treat them more like friends. We don’t separate ourselves too much. At the end of a show, we’re there signing CDs, shaking hands and saying hi and you end up knowing so many of them.”

The Celtic Tenors return to Australia in May and June for a national tour. For more information, go to www.celtic-tenors.com

Dublin singer eager for Aussie return

Gavin James has built a following from Belfast to Brazil.

Gavin James has built a following from Belfast to Brazil.

“Can’t wait,” Gavin James replies when he’s asked if he is looking forward to his Australian tour in March.

It will only be the second time he has played these shores.

“Should be great craic. It’s a really quick trip but I’d love to go over there next time and spend about a week and hang out a little bit. Still should be great craic though.”

It was in 2016 that the Dubliner played his first Australian shows.

“It was great. The Australian crowds are class. They were singing all the words, a lovely crowd to sing to. I’m excited to see what it’s like this time now that it’s on a bigger scale. We’re bringing the band over as well, so it should be good.”

In addition to his supporting band, James will also bring his new album, Only Ticket Home, which was released late last year and went straight to number two in the Irish charts.

The album features the the triumphant love song Glow, which is accompanied by a feelgood video where the singer walks through the cobbled streets of Temple Bar singing and being joined by all the hen parties, buskers, visitors and mime artists of Dublin’s famous tourist trap.

“We did it in Temple Bar because I played there for years before I got a deal. When I left school, I went straight into Temple Bar and did gigs, 15 gigs a week, but it helped me learn how to sing, write songs and play so I thought I would do a video in Temple Bar and get everybody involved.

“We were lucky with the weather. I remember somebody was saying, ‘We should go to Portugal or something’. I was like, ‘We have to do it in Ireland’.”

From Temple Bar, the then 21-year-old would go onto sign a record deal. His debut album Bitter Pill was released in 2016 and reached number five in Ireland.

James once said that every gig he does is like a party that he is never quite sure anyone is going to show up for. Even now, does he still get that feeling?

“Definitely. It always comes back. I put my first show on in Brazil last year. I was like, ‘Is anyone actually going to come to this show in Brazil? I’m just some lad from Dublin that has one song on the radio over here’.

“I didn’t expect anybody to show up because you never know. The Irish crowds have always been amazing and very welcoming but then you go to a new market, you never know.

“You’re always unsure no matter how much you get played on the radio or how much streaming there is, it all depends on whether it connects with people or not. I think it’s always just a shot in the dark no matter where you play really and if it goes well, book the next tour immediately.”

Just so you know, people did show up to his Brazilian shows and he is booked to go back to play a venue as big as Dublin’s Olympia in Sao Paulo:

“It’s mad that it’s so far away and the music still reaches; it’s deadly.”

Gavin James returns to Australia in March for a whistle-stop tour.

Gavin James returns to Australia in March for a whistle-stop tour.

The Brazilian connection came about after his music featured on Brazilian soap opera Pega Pega and, when he visited the country, he did a cameo performance.

So, how was his South American soap opera debut? “It was gas. The director wanted me to speak in Portuguese but my accent was terrible. There was a girl and her boyfriend, I think they were making up or something. I ended up doing a couple of takes saying it in Portuguese and eventually they took me saying, ‘Howaya, Luisa. This song is for you’. It wasn’t even, ‘Hey, Luisa’. It was, ‘Howaya, Luisa’. It was very funny.”

His music has also featured on the popular Aussie soap Home And Away but he says he’s not sure about seeking a role in Summer Bay.

“I’ll head down to the set and see what happens. They’re always playing the tunes. I always get a text off my ma every time saying, ‘you’re on Home And Away again’.”

The now 27-year-old is also huge in Holland, Singapore and the Phillipines to name just a few faraway places his music has reached.

One memorable recent gig for James involved playing a set at Conor McGregor’s sister’s wedding. How did he come to perform at the family gathering of another very famous Dubliner?

“She was a big fan so his publicist gave me a shout and asked if I was around and the wedding was half an hour from my gaff so I went down, played Nervous, played a couple of tunes at the wedding. I didn’t even meet him. I just ran in, did the wedding and then had to make it back to the airport to get back to London.”

Gavin James plays The Foundry in Brisbane on Thursday 21 March; The Prince Bandroom in Melbourne on Friday 22 March; Manning Bar in Sydney on Saturday 23 March and Badlands in Perth on Sunday 24 March.

Get set for tsunami of Irish music

Luka Bloom returns to Australia after a four-year absence.

Luka Bloom returns to Australia after a four-year absence.

Fans of Irish music might need to brace for a ticket-buying frenzy as a virtual invasion of artists prepare to travel Down Under over coming months

The East Coast Blues and Roots Festival in Byron Bay over Easter has a distinct Irish accent next year with Hozier and Imelda May both headlining.

Hozier is now a genuine superstar who has built up a massive following around the world since his breakthrough hit Take Me To Church in 2013.

Damien Rice makes a welcome return to Australia.

Damien Rice makes a welcome return to Australia.

Dubliner Imelda May looks very different to when she first toured Australia in 2011. Now, having abandoned her rockabilly look and sound, she has established herself as a brilliant soul and jazz singer.

Also on the bill at Byron Bay are Canadian based Irish singer Irish Mythen, honorary Irishman David Gray and Irish-American Celtic funk band Flogging Molly.

Ahead of that, in February, the uber-talented Damien Rice returns for his first Aussie tour in a decade.

Playing intimate venues like the City Recital Hall in Sydney Rice is slated to “take audiences on a familiar yet unique musical journey – presenting much-loved classics, with the tease of new music on the horizon”.

In March, Gavin James returns after a very successful tour in 2016.

The Port Fairy Folk Festival and Blue Mountains Folk Festival also boast some awesome Irish talent with Luka Bloom returning to Australia for his first tour in five years. Also performing at those festivals in the remarkable Wallis Bird. Born left-handed, she lost the four fingers and thumb of her left hand in a lawnmower accident and had four sewn back on. She got used to playing a right-handed guitar upside-down, which explains her unconventional style.

Hozier plays the East Coast Blues and Roots Festival.

Hozier plays the East Coast Blues and Roots Festival.

Also hitting the festival circuit will be Daoiri Farrell. The former electrician, who decided to become a musician after seeing Christy Moore perform, has been described by some of the biggest names in Irish folk music as one of most important singers to come out of Ireland in recent years.

Sharon Shannon also returns to Australia in February for a shows in Perth, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne. Also in Australia that month will be crooner Daniel O’Donnell.

Dublin’s Kodaline also return to Oz for the first time since their sold-out 2014 tour. The indie pop quartet have gigs lined up in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth after a St Patrick’s Day show in Melbourne.

Fans of Irish pop can look forward to a reformed Boyzone touring in March and April. Before that, Irish girl group B*Witched will arrive for shows from the end of January.

Celtic Tenors also arrive in May for a national tour.

Electro-folk duo on first Australian tour

Saint Sister have won praise in Ireland for their ‘atmosfolk’ sound.

Saint Sister have won praise in Ireland for their ‘atmosfolk’ sound.

The Irish Times says, “their haunting performance is impeccable”, while Hot Press laud their “tremendous vocal depth and vulnerability”. 

They once sang with world conquering Hozier at Trinity College and now, Irish electro-folk duo Saint Sister are headed to Australia for their first tour which will include Sydney Irish Festival and Mullum Music Festival. 

Described as a mix of early harp traditional, folk and electronic pop or simply ‘atmosfolk’, Saint Sister is made up of Gemma Doherty and Morgan MacIntyre, who first came together in 2014. Their first trip down under comes immediately after the October release of their debut album, Shape of Silence, produced by Alex Ryan (Hozier’s bassist). 

“I’ve always wanted to come and see Australia and we definitely weren’t expecting to be able to go this soon,” Doherty tells The Irish Echo.

MacIntyre adds: “It’s a dream come true to be able to get to go to Australia at this stage. We’re really looking forward to it.”

The band will join big names like Damien Dempsey, Mary Black and Lunasa for the Sydney Irish Festival that takes place over the weekend of 10-11 November and also includes a hurling match between Kilkenny and Galway. 

Gemma says: “It’s very exciting. I came from a very traditional Irish background so it’s where a lot of our influences come from, maybe they don’t come directly out on the surface but that’s kind of the world I grew up in so it’s really lovely to be able to cross over into that more traditional Irish folk world sometimes. I’m really excited about that line-up.”

MacIntyre believes expat audiences will relate to Saint Sister’s sound with its innate sense of longing.

“I think Irish music in general has a lot of nostalgia and longing and yearning,” she says. 

“Every kind of Irish music somehow has that innate sense of longing. I think it’s just the make up of us as a country and because we have such a big diaspora, that longing is exacerbated and exaggerated in those forms (music, literature).  

“Music is such a big connector as well. I think we’re lucky as Irish musicians that when we’re travelling around the world , we have this ready made group of people that understand us and it’s probably not the same for other people whose nationalities doesn’t have as big a diaspora. 

“I think that makes it very easy to relate to and it makes it easy for touring musicians from Ireland because you can go away and know you’ll be understood and that your sense of identity and longing and all that stuff that comes with being an Irish person will translate.”

Doherty adds: “It’s incredible to be going to the other side of the world and having a huge bunch of people who have already come from where you’ve come from. Hopefully there’s a connection there already.”

From Derry and Belfast respectively, Doherty and MacIntyre moved to Dublin in 2010 to study at Trinity College where they met. They sang in the Trinity Orchestra together with Hozier before deciding to join together for their own project. Their sound can be described as dreamy, a feeling that is created by their atmospheric sound and beautiful harmonies.  

Their album title, Shape Of Silence, comes, MacIntyre says, from their interest in “the idea of space and what can be said and what can be felt in the gaps, whether it is gaps in the lyrics or the music.  And what can be said when you’re not saying anything. 

“Silence is quite a deadly thing and quite a powerful thing. We thought it was interesting to think about it as something you can touch and hold and that had weight and was very heavy, so that’s where Shape of Silence came from. It seemed to suit the kind of world we were going for.” 

The album has slowly come together over the last three years as the offers to gig kept coming in, disrupting what could have been writing or recording time. However, this suited them as they still were able to put out material such as their Madrid EP or Tin Man single, both tracks that feature on the album. 

Saint Sister play Sydney Irish Festival on Saturday November 10, Northcote Social Club, Melbourne on Sunday November 11, The Lansdowne in Sydney on Tuesday November 13 and Mullum Music Festival on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 November. For more information, go to www.saintsisterband.com

Irish soul singer keen to reconnect with Aussie fans

Damien Dempsey has a huge following in Australia.

Damien Dempsey has a huge following in Australia.

One of Ireland’s most distinctive voices and passionate performers returns to Australia this November.

Since the release of his debut They Don’t Teach This Shit in School in 2000, Damien Dempsey has earned the admiration of performers as diverse as Sinead O’Connor, Morrissey and Bruce Springsteen.

His style has been called ‘urban folk’ but he prefers to call it ‘Irish soul’ and the Dubliner is never inhibited about weighing into political debates and championing community causes.

He returns to Australia in November to headline the Sydney Irish Festival which will also feature Mary Black, Lunasa and Saint Sister (see page 6).

“I never performed with Mary but I would know her kids well,” Damien tells The Irish Echo. “You never know, we might do something at the end of the night if she’s into it. With Lunasa and that, get a bit of a singsong going. I always stick in a few of the old Irish songs because they have such great memories, the songs of our ancestors. They’re just like old ghosts and you just have to breathe new life into them and they come alive.

“I want to get everyone in those showgrounds to feel on cloud nine, make them feel as high as they can. A natural high. Get them all singing. Singing is a great way to get people high. To get them all singing in unison, it releases endorphins. It’s great.”

Dempsey is no stranger to playing to huge Irish crowds abroad and has played to St Patrick’s Day crowds in Australia before.

“Years ago, [playing to large crowds] might have frightened me but I’m kind of ready now for big venues. It took me a while, the nerves used to kill me but I’m ready now. I’m kind of ready for anything now, I think.”

Damien Dempsey lends his support to many community causes. In 2014, he and Glen Hansard performed at a protest against water charges. Picture: Niall Carson

Damien Dempsey lends his support to many community causes. In 2014, he and Glen Hansard performed at a protest against water charges. Picture: Niall Carson

He recalls a memorable night in Sydney in 2013 when he played the Opera House on St Patrick’s Day.

“The Sydney Opera House have never seen a crowd like it. They were up on the seats with the tops off, arm in arm, singing the songs and they drank the bar dry in about 40 minutes. They had to close the bar because they drank every bit of alcohol, everything was gone so the Opera House (officials and staff) were just going around with their mouths open, just ‘what the hell?’

“They had never seen an audience like it but they were no trouble, just everybody in great form and singing the songs. I’ve done a couple of Paddy’s days there (Australia) and it’s always very emotional.”

The Dubliner’s music resonates very strongly in emigrant communities and he empathises with those who may have been forced to leave home.

“A lot of them have had to leave Ireland and maybe leave old parents behind that they’re worried about, but they’ve no choice. My parents are in their seventies and they wouldn’t be in great health, the thought of having to live abroad and not be around for them, I would find it very hard. I feel for the guys who have to be away.”

Having lived in New York and London as well as elsewhere in Dublin in spells, Damien now lives in his native Donaghmede: “I was always being told by people during the Celtic Tiger: ‘Buy a house now, get on the property ladder now. It will never go down’. I kind of felt there was a recession coming so I waited and then when the market was rock bottom, I had some savings and got a house in Donaghmede.”

Two recent Irish TV appearances have thrown him into the public spotlight even more than usual. He appeared on the Tommy Tiernan show where he spoke about battles with depression and his ancestry was explored on an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?.

“I had ancestors in the Irish Citizen Army that fought with James Connolly and it went in depth into stories of other people who fought during the famine and were imprisoned with Daniel O’Connell.

“Then there was protestant blood on one of the sides which was a shock for a lot of people. Not to me, I don’t go in for all that really.

“Then my family went to America working in cotton mills over there in horrendous conditions. Some of them disappeared and some of them came back. I was in the school in Letterfrack getting the story of what happened to the children. I was in prisons in Dublin where Fenians were sent and City Hall where my great aunt took the building in 1916. Fairly interesting.”

His Australian tour coincides with the release of his ninth album, Union.

“It includes collaborations that I’ve done with people like Maverick Sabre who is a great singer. Imelda May is on it, Seamus Begley, Finbar Furey and John Grant. I think they’re all fairly powerful (songs),” he says.

Dan Sultan, the Irish-Australian indigenous singer, also joins him on the song, It’s Important.

“Dan wanted to come to Ireland, to Mullingar to see where his people came from. They asked me would I bring him on tour with me around Ireland. I hung out with him down there and he taught me a lot about Aboriginal culture. He’s a great old friend. I’m looking forward to seeing him when I get to Melbourne.”

Limerick band Hermitage Green eager for Australian return

Hermitage Green return to Australia in November.

Hermitage Green return to Australia in November.

Limerick folk/pop outfit Hermitage Green have developed a strong affection for Australia, which is why they are returning down under for the second time in 12 months. 

Guitarist Darragh Griffin said the reception they received last year was motivation enough for a quick return.

“When we were there last November, we kind of said, ‘We need to do this regularly; this can’t be a once every three years kind of thing’,” Griffin said.   

“What we’ve tended to find as well is you have to do a bit more work to win the crowds over but that can be kind of an enjoyable challenge.” 

Darragh shares vocal and guitar duties with the Murphy brothers Dan and Barry, the latter of which had a successful career with Munster rugby before taking up music as a serious pursuit.  

The band have been coming to Australia since 2013.

“Our first time going to Australia was a surreal stand-out experience for us. We played a couple of weeks in Perth and had built up a bit of a reputation and people got to know us and enjoyed us and then we did the east coast. 

“We were coming back (to Perth) for one gig at the end of it and for that last gig, there was literally this enormous queue of people up the road where they couldn’t get any more people into the pub so we ended up actually going out and playing to the fewer [number of] people who were waiting, because we knew they weren’t going to get in.

“When you see that kind of hype being built up in the space of two weeks, that’s all it was, and I suppose that news had spread from coast to coast literally between the community and it was absolutely amazing. It’s something we weren’t expecting to happen on that sort of scale at all.”

The Limerick band’s Australian preoccupation is not just about audiences. They’re travelling with a didgeridoo as the instrument features in the song The Lion’s Share.

“I can tell you it’s not the easiest thing to travel with,” Griffin joked.

The Limerick five-piece played at a special memorial concert for The Cranberries Dolores O'Riordan earlier this year.

The Limerick five-piece played at a special memorial concert for The Cranberries Dolores O'Riordan earlier this year.

How did an Australian crowd react to seeing an Irish band with the quintessentially Australian instrument? 

“It definitely raises the eyebrows. I think you can recognise if someone is doing something from an angle of a gimmicky thing but it’s essentially the foundation the rest of the song is built on top of. You couldn’t have a bunch of Australians coming over to Ireland and jumping around with a fiddle on stage. That wouldn’t be appreciated [just as] it wouldn’t be appreciated in Australia to be disrespectful to the didgeridoo.

“As soon as people recognise that it’s an integral part of The Lion’s Share, I think they appreciate what are trying to do with it; we’re trying to incorporate it into our own sound.” 

The band’s last tour got off to a disastrous start when some band members couldn’t get into the country in time, meaning that their Prince Bandroom gig, the first of their tour, had to be cancelled. They won’t repeat the same mistake again.

“We’re going to Melbourne a week and a half early this time to make sure. A monumental mess-up was what it was and a little bit of naivety on our part. 

“We were just really devastated that people had been coming from far and wide and then suddenly the gig was cancelled. We were just really, really gutted. We do not cancel gigs, it’s got to be something absolutely monumental to cancel a gig because we know the effort people make to go to gigs because we make it ourselves. It’s devastating when it’s called off. We 100 per cent will not be making that mistake again. Hermitage Green will be there on stage as planned.” 

All of Ireland was shocked by the sudden death of Dolores O’Riordan in January and nowhere more so than in her native Limerick. Hermitage Green paid tribute to one of Limerick’s most famous daughters at a special gig in King John’s Castle when they played the famous Cranberries’ songs Dreams and Zombie.

“It was phenomenal, I’m getting [the] shivers thinking about it. 

“There were 2,000 people screaming these lyrics back at us and we ended Zombie and the crowd just kept singing it and it wasn’t really planned out like that. They kept singing the end of Zombie and we had that 15 seconds where we all just stood at the front of the stage and looked over 2,000 people, over the wall of King John’s Castle and onto the city and the Shannon and it was just really, really emotional. It was an incredible moment. It’s a hard one to top. We’re going a few years and that’s a stand-out moment. I’m emotional talking about it. It was incredible.  

“Noel Hogan [Cranberries guitarist] was at the gig, so knowing he was in the audience watching this, on top of everything else, really kind of brought it all home. It was absolutely amazing.”

Hermitage Green kick off their tour in Perth on November 10 before gigs in Brisbane, Melbourne, Newcastle, Sydney and Thirroul. 

Australia to get another quick round of Coronas

The Coronas are heading back to Australia for a whistle-stop tour.

The Coronas are heading back to Australia for a whistle-stop tour.

Just a year after releasing their Irish number one album Trust the Wire and their last Aussie tour, Dublin rockers The Coronas return to Australia for three shows in November. 

Since establishing themselves in 2003, The Coronas have built up a loyal fanbase in Ireland and cemented themselves as one of our best live acts. 

Fresh from playing to 14,000 fans at Dublin’s 3Arena, lead singer Danny O’Reilly told The Irish Echo how excited the band are to be heading back down under. 

“The reaction we have been getting there is just amazing so we’re really excited about going back,” O’Reilly, the son of singing legend Mary Black, said. 

“We had a cool gig in Sydney in March, just to launch the gigs, and we love going there. We’re really excited and hopefully by the end of November, it will be nice and sunny as well so we’ll get a bit of sun on our skin.

“Often times we don’t get to enjoy the cities too much but hopefully we’ll get a few days either side just to enjoy the place. It was cool to be back in Sydney for a few days. We have a couple of friends living there now. 

“Hopefully when we go back in November, we might have a few days to enjoy it and chill out and catch up with people again.”

It was just last year that the band released their fifth studio album but in June they followed it with new material in the form of the EP, The Reprise, a collection of loose-end songs that did not fit on previous albums.

“We’ve been playing a few songs off it. It’s been going well. It’s always nice to have something new out there.

“I think the EP’s a little bit different for us, it’s a little bit of a departure from what we’ve done in the past. I mean it’s still Coronas, it’s still three and a half minute songs of my whiny voice on top of some pop songs but I think musically it’s slightly different for us. 

“It’s been getting an amazing reaction, much better than we even thought. We thought we were gonna release it under the radar just to have a release for our really eager fans who want to hear some new music but I think it’s helped us garner some new attention and some new fans so it’s really encouraging.

“We had more freedom because we produced it ourselves. It’s the first piece of work that we self- produced. It was very free and easy and like, ‘Okay, there’s no pressure on it to be a big successful album, we don’t need a load of hits, this is just something for us’. And I think taking that pressure off made it more enjoyable.

“Sometimes when you get too caught up in trying to write singles you can get off track a little bit. With this, we didn’t worry at all about getting radio play; this was more of a self-indulgent … undertaking. It was nice to be able to do that and scratch that itch and let ourselves just go with it.”

The lead single on The Reprise is The Note, striking for both the singalong and triumphant tune and the heartbroken lyrics it is married to. 

O’Reilly has often spoken about how he writes about his own life in his music. This song could very well be from the period after his high-profile break-up with television presenter, Laura Whitmore. 

“It’s about the struggle after a break-up and sometimes that maybe things aren’t great and they might not get better and having those depressing feelings so it’s definitely darker lyrically,” he said. “People are loving it and that’s really great to see. It’ s nice we found a home for it because it’s a song we’re really proud of.”

The band have started putting together material for their next album and O’Reilly reveals this comes as a relief after the last album’s difficult preparation.

“I’m really excited about the new stuff, more so than years gone by. With the last album Trust the Wire we’re really proud of it. I definitely think it’s one of our strongest albums but I think it was the closest I’ve ever been to having writer’s block. 

“I was definitely struggling creatively for a while so I just thought: ‘We’re getting older, trying to continuously improve creatively, it’s going to be difficult and it’s going to just get harder as you get older’. 

“That’s sort of what I had resigned myself to but then we went down to Dingle and had these two weeks where there were just songs falling out of us and I was like, ‘Oh my God. These are great’.”

O’Reilly will not be the only family member in Australia in November as his mother Mary Black will perform at the Sydney Irish Festival.  

Asked if there could be some overlap of their time here, O’Reilly replied: “It will be great. To be completely honest, I had no idea we were going to be in Australia at the same time, so thank you for that. It would be so cool. 

“If I can do it, I would definitely consider going over a week early maybe to Australia, seeing her show and just chilling out for a week. I hope that might work out, make a family holiday out of it.” 

The Coronas play Prince Bandroom, Melbourne on 22 November, Metro Theatre, Sydney on 23 November and Capitol, Perth on 24 November. For more information, go to www.troubadour-music.com

As Luke would have it, Kelly legend lives on

Chris Kavanagh pays homage to Luke Kelly.

Chris Kavanagh pays homage to Luke Kelly.

The definitive Luke Kelly tribute act is on its way to Australia. 

Created and performed by Dubliner Chris Kavanagh, the show celebrates the talent and legacy of the iconic flame-haired singer and musician. 

When Kavanagh started his tribute show in 2001, he could not have expected it would lead to him playing iconic venues like Vicar Street and the Olympia or touring with John Sheahan and the Dubliners and playing gigs as far away as Australia. But his show is also endorsed by Kelly’s family. 

“It’s one surprise after another,” Chris told The Irish Echo. “I felt like I won the musical lottery when John [Sheahan] asked me to go on tour with the Dubliners. We played for two weeks in Germany. Luke, in Germany, is a major icon, the German people absolutely adore him. 

“He’s an icon. America has their Elvis, Ireland has Luke. 

“The songs he chose, too. Some of them are very touching and deep and it takes a certain type of singer to put those songs across and Luke had that in spades. He had a way of connecting people through songs.”

Having the support of Kelly’s family is important to Kavanagh.

“Luke’s family still come and see us all the time and Luke’s two brothers come up and sing with us. 

“They’re a lovely family and the talent is in the blood because they all sing. They love what we’re doing and they’re lovely people. I found out going away with the Dubliners, people have this idea that they’re wild men and I’m sure they were at one stage but they were pure gents when I was away with them, there was no mad behaviour.”

Kelly died in 1984 at the age of 43. Known for his distinctive singing style and sometimes political messages, he continues to inspire generations of Irish singers. 

“Growing up every Sunday, my grandmother had the Dubliners on the record player when the dinner was on and it’s amazing how that music gets into your blood and stays there. I played all different kinds of music through the years but I think you go back to what you know best, I was singing those kind of songs when I was about three. I have returned home with the kind of music that I chose to sing and record,” Kavanagh said. Bringing Kelly’s music to a crowd far away from their home in Ireland provokes an overwhelming response, according to Kavanagh.

“I suppose it’s like a visit home for the Irish in Australia. 

“I remember the last time we were there, we were playing in the Enmore Theatre and it sold out but even the young people up the front, certain songs were stirring emotions; they were crying their eyes out. 

“I suppose when we play here at home, we take a lot for granted. It’s only when you go abroad and play that you see a completely different reaction, people really get into it and I suppose it is because they are away from home.

“It’s a great night out, especially that kind of music. Luke Kelly and the Dubliners, I suppose it’s music that even young people were brought up listening to when their parents were playing the tapes or CDs or records in the early days.” 

Luke Kelly died in 1984 at the age of 43. 

Luke Kelly died in 1984 at the age of 43. 

Besides the endorsement of Sheahan, the only remaining member of the definitive five member line-up of the Dubliners, and the support of the Kelly family, Chris has received many
accolades for keeping Kelly’s music alive. 

Broadcaster Eamon Dunphy said the show was “a beautiful blast from our beautiful past”. Kavanagh added: “I got one [a song] there recently off Shane Healy [songwriter of Johnny
Logan’s Eurovision winner What’s Another Year]. 

“We had him [Healy] do a spot at a gig and he grabbed the microphone … and he says: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is the best ballad singer in the country’. That was huge praise for me coming from him.”

Kavanagh said he does not try to impersonate Luke but his voice does have a similar ragged style. Many have also commented on the resemblance. 

He will be joined by his wife Hilary on bass and vocals and Joe Finn on uileann pipes.

“People shout out what they’re looking for and I love when they do because we don’t really use a set list as such, we just play the songs that we think should be next. A lot of people ask for Grace by Jim McCann or Seven Drunken Nights sung by Ronnie Drew. We’re always able to throw them in there if they’re called for.

“It does (make it a great night), especially if you haven’t played a song before. I love the challlenge, we’ve gotten away with murder up until now. Always up for a challenge. The audience love a bit of banter and craic and it brings them in.”

The Legend of Luke Kelly show kicks off a national tour at Anita’s Theatre in Thirroul on July 12. For complete dates and ticketing details, visit troubadour-music.com

Legendary Donegal trad outfit set for Oz return

Altan – (from left) Mark Kelly, Ciarán Curran, Martin Tourish and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh. Absent from the photograph is guitarist Daíthí Sproule.

Altan – (from left) Mark Kelly, Ciarán Curran, Martin Tourish and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh. Absent from the photograph is guitarist Daíthí Sproule.

ONE of Ireland’s most prominent traditional bands, Altan have brought the music of Donegal around the world and are about to return to Australia on their 30th anniversary tour.

The first trad band to secure major label representation when they joined Virgin in the 1990s, Altan have paved the way for many bands who followed and have played with greats like Dolly Parton, Enya, The Chieftains, Bonnie Raitt and Alison Krauss. Altan will be at the National Celtic Festival in Portarlington, Victoria next month, playing tracks from The Gap of Dreams, their most recent and 12th studio album.

“We’ve been talking about going to Australia for a while and now that it’s all coming together, we’re delighted and it will be great to be part of the festival,” lead vocalist and fiddle player Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh told The Irish Echo from Ireland.

Last year marked three decades for the band, which was formed in 1987.

“I think all of us were kind of shocked. It just kind of flew by and now we’re 30 years on the road and enjoying the music still.”

There has been heartbreak along the way as Mairéad lost her husband as well as the band’s flute and tin whistle player Frankie Kennedy to cancer in 1994.

“I think of him all the time. We frequently mention him in funny stories on the road. We are always laughing at the memories, it’s always fun times that we think about and times when everything comes together musically. And where there’s a huge response to the band, we always think of him as well. He’s mentioned a lot.”

The album’s title comes from its other worldly inspiration as the songs explore mythical elements like mermaids and banshees.

“Well it’s an idea that all the older musicians used to talk about: Getting the tune from the other world, let it be the fairies or it came on the wind or something like that. The door is always open between this world and the other world. That’s exactly what the old fiddlers used to say, that there wasn’t a big difference between this world and the other world when the music came from the other world,” she said.

“We decided to use that phrase. All these kind of other worldly ideas came to our head, we decided to go with that.” The album also features the next generation of Irish music with Mairéad’s daughter Nia, who is only 14, making a contribution. Bandmate Mark Kelly’s son Sam also plays on it making this album a family affair.

“My daughter and Mark’s son Sam came in and they were the only guests we had really on the album and they were delighted, hopefully they’ll play more,” she said.

Altan play the National Celtic Festival in Portarlington 8-10 June. Altan will be joined at The National Celtic Festival by Scottish stars The Paul McKenna Band and Irish-Australian troubadours Hat Fitz and Cara. Altan play Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne on 12 June, The Old Museum in Brisbane on 13 June, Lizzottes in Newcastle on 14 June, Factory Theatre in Sydney on 15 June, Fly By Night in Perth on 16 June. For more information and tickets, go to www.troubadour-music.com

Tenor trio return for national tour

celtic ternors2.jpeg

FORMER US President Bill Clinton described their rendition as “the finest version of ‘Danny Boy’ I have ever heard.” The Irish Examiner says they “combine the high standards of operatic singing with a delightfully informal sense of fun”.

Now, after 18 years of performing together and 12 studio albums, The Celtic Tenors are coming to Australia with their biggest tour to date. Although they have done shows with Celtic Woman here before and performed the occasional one-off gig, the classical-based singing trio are bringing their sound to Australian audiences, having concentrated mainly on America/ Canada until now.

“It’s very new territory for us,” Sligo’s James Nelson tells The Irish Echo. “The few things we have done in Australia have gone very well. I think that’s why we’re coming back. We’re confident that Australia will be in our touring schedule because we’ve nearly toured every other continent.”

The Celtic Tenors provide a unique stage show, combining classical music with more traditional Irish, pop and all with their distinctive charisma and banter. “Even though we’re essentially a classical/crossover act, we don’t like to be labelled in that way because what we do in the show is so different. We do Nessun Dorma but the next minute we’re doing Whiskey in the Jar, Danny Boy or even The Boxer. The mix is so eclectic, there really is something for everybody. I think that is why we’re together so long.

celtic tenors1.jpg

“Sometimes the name works against us. People think, ‘Bloody Irish; only sing Irish songs’. Even with our albums, it’s hard to know where to put them in a record store because they could be in the classical, crossover, or world, or Irish or easy listening. You kind of have to ask at reception where they are.” The Celtic Tenors have been in existence since 2000.

While James and Matthew Gilsenan have been involved from the very start until now, Daryl Simpson from Omagh replaced Niall Morris in 2006. This tour will see them perform The Irish Songbook that will include Song For Ireland, Danny Boy, You Raise Me Up and more favourites.

“As a group, our passion is the music and as long as the music is forefront, that is what will keep us together. If we stop enjoying the music and stop enjoying what we do, we’ll give it up. You see orchestras and when the conductor is giving notes, they take out their newspapers and you want to go up and shake them and say, ‘do you not realise how lucky you are to make music or a living?’ I pinch myself all the time.

“We were in Abbey Road for our second album in the same studio as The Beatles and I was just pinching myself, I couldn’t believe that this was what we were doing for a living. This is how I sing for my supper.

“In Sydney as well when we were getting our pictures taken with the Sydney skyline in the background, I was just thinking, ‘How fortunate am I?’ I think that’s the biggest achievement for me as a group, that we are loving the music still. If it becomes a job, I will pack it in. There’s no point in doing it as a job. You have to be in love. I hope that doesn’t make you throw up.”

Another of James’s passions is philanthropy. For years he has been part of a project in Kenya that gives AIDS orphans a second chance at life: “Now we’re seeing kids we worked with years ago graduating as teachers, accountants, chefs and engineers which is the most surreal thing.

James is not the only one with such an extremely worthwhile personal project as bandmate Daryl was recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list with a British Empire Medal for services to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and services to music.

Daryl, from Omagh, started a peace choir of Protestants and Catholics that celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. James says: “BEM. I thought he had dyslexia and it was an MBE but it’s a BEM. We’re very proud of him.”

See our what's on section for dates or visit their website.