Clannad @ Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide 10/3/2023

With Womad playing across town, it was great to see a good crowd turn up for Clannad at Thebarton Theatre. With three of the original members still playing with the band (sadly Noel Duggan passed away in 2022), the music is exquisitely framed by the vocals of Moya Brennan. It is a sibling’s affair with Pol and Ciaran with Moya in the band. Of course, singer/songwriter, Enya, started her career in the band but only stayed for a couple of years in the early eighties. Backing these three were long time member, drummer Ged Lynch and Moya’s daughter Ashley and son Paul.

Clannad are on their farewell world tour. They formed in 1970 and their debut, self-titled album, was released fifty years ago in 1973. According to the members, picking songs to play on the Farewell Tour was hard, but we got a fair representation from those fifty years, from the debut album to a newly recorded song for the latest Anthology album.

There was no support band, with Clannad playing two sets for the evening. Though this was a career highlights set, and songs were not played in chronological order.

With just the three original members on stage the band started with Buachaill on Eirne with two acoustic guitars and Moya’s dreamlike voice. dTigeas a Damhsa followed, sung A cappella. Yes, most of the songs this evening were sung in Gaelic but we were often told the translations and the stories behind the songs.

With the rest of the band joining the family, the first song they ever sung on stage, Thios Chois Na Tra Domh “well according to Moya” laughed Pol was played, with acoustic guitars giving way to double bass and harp. This is one talented band. Instruments were changed all evening and even on occasion, two instruments played at once by one person.

Two instrumentals by The Bard Turlough O’Carolan (born 1670), who loved woman and whiskey and bought a comment from Pol of “Not a bad life”, were played with instruments changing often within the songs. Naturally the two songs were about women and whiskey.

For Two Sisters, Moya taught the audience three lines from the song to sing, with a threat from Pol “If you don’t join in, we will do the full thirty four verse version instead of the nine verse we plan on singing”. No threat needed; the crowd sang exuberantly. A Robin Hood medley rounded out the first set, giving band and audience a chance to catch their breath and for us to get a drink.

Set two commenced with Caislean Oir, which morphed into In a Lifetime, “which we sung with that old man from Ireland” smiled Pol, meaning Bono from U2. Hourglass had not been played live since the 1980’s and sounded as fresh as the day it was first released. A Celtic Dream is a brand-new song, especially recorded for the new In a Lifetime, Anthology album and is a reflection of fifty years of playing in Clannad.

I Will Find You was the evenings highlight. The theme from the movie, The Last of the Mohicans sounding surreal and stunning. But it wasn’t all folk songs and Gaelic classics. Closer to Your Heart proved they could write “pop songs”, even if it was with the help of “a few smokes and Guinness” said Ciaran, smiling.

Probably their most know song, Theme from Harry’s Game, was hauntingly beautiful, with just three keyboards providing the backing to Moya’s vocals. Dulaman closed out the set with a bass solo and to show they were indeed a 70’s band, a short drum solo.

A one song encore, the rousing Teidhir Abhaile Rie had the crowd on their feet to say goodbye to the band for the last time. Clannad would fit nicely in at Womad but luckily, we were fortunate to get the full two-set concert at Thebarton Theatre. This maybe the last we see of Clannad, but with two young siblings in the band, I am guessing the Irish and Gaelic roots music is in safe hands going forward.

Live Review By Geoff Jenke

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