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Gig Review: Celtic Woman at Dublin's 3Arena

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Susan McFadden, Lynn Hilary, Mairead Carlin and Mairead Nesbitt from the Celtic Women show

Susan McFadden, Lynn Hilary, Mairead Carlin and Mairead Nesbitt from the Celtic Women show

Jason Clarke Photography

Susan McFadden, Lynn Hilary, Mairead Carlin and Mairead Nesbitt from the Celtic Women show

Somewhere between a Las Vegas spectacular and the Father Ted Lovely Girls competition you will find Celtic Woman, a glitzy repackaging of Irish musical traditions ruthlessly tailored for the mass-market.

Established a decade ago, its post-Riverdance mash-up of the mystical and the flashy has proved hugely successful, particularly abroad, where audiences tend to believe Ireland is populated by dewey-eyed 'lasses' and straight-backed men liable to break into a Michael Flately jig without warning.

Certainly, as the ensemble (with its ever shifting  cast of female vocalists) commenced a tenth anniversary tour, the slickness was striking. In gilded ball-gowns,the line-up of Máiréad Carlin, Lynn Hilary, Susan McFadden, Lisa Lambe and Máiréad Nesbitt grinned throughout  – even when, as on Dúlamán and Clannad's Newgrange, the material seemed minded to evoke gloom and introspection.

Mostly, it was good clean fun. Their boisterous Orinoco Flow was upbeat and just the right side of karaoke, while the appearance of a Highland bagpiper in the middle of the crowd prompted much camera-phone snapping (remember this was 'Celtic' Woman - not 'Irish' Woman).

They could sing too. Seated before a piano McFadden (younger sister of ex-Westlife warbler Brian) proceeded respectfully through Dougie McLean's Caledonia, her nuanced vocals a pleasing contrast with her blinding rhinestone frock.

Still, there were moments your inner feminist blanched. On one instrumental fiddle player Nesbitt dashed wildly about the stage, 'jamming' with the band. She was done up in the fashion of a Gaeilgeoir Xena Warrior Princess; they were tucked into sensible black suits. The question did present itself: if the ladies had to dress like extras from a mildly saucy remake of Lord of the Rings, why not the guys?

Online Editors