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Author Topic: Phoenix gets Alexified  (Read 1418 times)
Moscapoet
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« on: May 24, 2015, 11:52:36 AM »

It has been far too long since I was able to post a review here. Here's hoping we all get more chances to do that!

   I had flown in from Orlando with a change of planes in Albuquerque. Weird because that is where my travels for the week began. I had lunch at Panda Express while I awaited my connection on Southwest Airlines. They have been my preferred domestic airline for a long time for my Celtic experiences. I had stayed with a friend in Florida while we experienced the Lisa Kelly event in Peachtree City Georgia a few days prior. We do support the former CW lasses as well as the current ones. Alex has seen that as well over the years. Dwight picked me up at the airport and it was a matter of brief minutes before I arrived at my hotel. He had kindly gifted me this show and meet & greet. He snagged a program for me as well. Very nice of him. I changed into my newly acquired Celtic duds, yes a kilt  Roll Eyes, and we were off to Gam,age auditorium on the campus of ASU.

    The Gammage is a noteworthy place in Celtic Woman history. It was here in the spring of 2007 that Mairead ripped her right calf muscle on stage which hobbled her for two weeks. It was quite painful but she did not end her performance or miss any subsequent shows. She toughed it out like the consummate performer that she is. I attended a CW show in Phoenix in 2009 but not at this venue. It is a typical campus performing arts facility, nothing fancy but large and functional. There was a large stage and our front row seats put us slightly below eye level for it. Next to Dwight and I was Chuck Curry and his wife from the Seattle area, also long time fans. they too had the after show meeting. To my left were long time fans but ones who had never been to a live show. So, they were in for a treat. Choir girls Sarah Gannon and Edel Murphy were in the lobby selling programs. The show was well attended and the audience lively but not overly so. This was my first CW show of this tour, one of four planned.

     My full show review is over in the M forum. I'll do a set list here but expand only upon the Alex performances. This is their tenth anniversary tour. So, there is no new material only different artists doing them. It is sort of a best of but not every fan would agree on the selections at times. Few fans would deny that Sky Dawn and Sun is one of the bet show openers of any stage act out there. And that is what we begin with tonight although sans the foggy entry of a fiddler who simply enters from stage left. The one by one the vocalists enter center stage. And there she is, not a desert mirage, not a mythical siren, but she herself, Alex Sharpe. I settle back and wait for what I know will be a treat for eyes and ears tonight.

        And who gets the first solo of the night? Alex. She does the song, Newgrange. I have heard Orla, Mairead Carlin, and now Alex do this song. I still connect this song with Orla and her interpretation is still my favorite. But Alex does it very well and there is no lack of connection and expression as she tells us the story of the place. I have always loved how she lives the songs she does. A fine voice indeed but is also watching her convey it and bring you into it with her. An actor can be created, but not a good one. Real actors are born and she is one of those. Only three of the front row with CW have had extensive musical play experience, Alex, Susan, and Lisa Lambe. It shows. However, what that means, at least for Alex and Susan, is little personal interaction from the stage with individual fans. They look mainly out and up. Been there done that. It's a matter of training and habit. So once again the spirit of an ancient place comes to life on stage in the form of a very special artist.

     Mairead is up next with a lively but modified version of her old standard, The Butterfly. She duels with various band members and is barefooted.

    Tommy plays The New Ground on his custom made (by him) Uilleann pipes. that leads into
Susan singing Isle of Hope. She does it well although I prefer the original group that did it.
 
     Next up is the song every Irish act performs. It is Danny Boy and is simply the front four. I have not felt all that moved by them doing this since they went from four voices to three. Not that it has ever been bad, it was just better. The missing piece was there tonight. Alex's voice is different enough that the harmonies are once again glorious with each of the three in a different range. That is what sort of made it less over the years were that the voices were too similar. Not tonight. Lynn on high, Susan in the middle, and Alex lower. Wonderful harmony.

    We go from sedate to party time with the frolic that is Si Do Mhaimeio. Everyone is involved in this except Susan. It harkens back to 2009 and spring 2010 with Alex and Lynn. Alex is really into it. She is all over the place, smiling from ear to ear, flinging her skirt around and just living the merriment. I am fixated on her. Lynn is having fun with it but in Lynn sort of way and nothing like the highly charged Alex. The fiddler is up there as well in her usual high energy state and the band and choir are all having a blast. Whew. Makes me tired just watching it.

    The two males dancers, along with Anthony, Ray, and Andy on percussion, now do their fun shtick they started last year. Eye candy for the female audience but lots of fun.

    Lynn is up next with her first solo on the night, Dulaman. I have heard four CW girls do this and each bring a unique take to it and all of them are good.

    Teir Abhaile Riu, the ultra fun ceili piece introduced at the Believe recording, is next. In this song one girl wants to run off to Galway and hang out with sailors. Her sister wants her to stay as she has chores to do and there are perfectly good lads in their own area. The argument between them starts it out until the mom or older sister steps in to break it up and then gets into it herself. Susan has always been the mom on tour for this. The other two have varied according to who was in the cast. Tonight the one who wants to run off is Susan and the bickering sister is Alex. Lynn is the mom, which seems to fit. Alex and Susan act it to the hilt and are a real hoot! Too funny with the facial expressions and body language. What is odd about it though is that once Lynn breaks it up she switches roles with Susan. My guess is that in some venues they begin this out in the audience and the Galway sailor chaser usually sits on a lap. Lynn did that last year but it is clearly well outside her comfort zone. My guess is when Mairead Carlin comes back the roles will once again be fixed. But it is huge fun and is the song used to end the first set before intermission.

     At the break I talk with long time fan, Tink. We both agree that Alex is really making this show and that her vocal gift has enriched the harmonies once more. We can't wait for more. We have great seats but interactions with the front four are limited to a few smiles and glances from the dynamic fiddler who has always been good at that. If you wanted some personal connection from the stage these three vocalists are the least interactive of any of the CW girls that have performed with the group. But then, they are there to perform and entertain everyone and they are certainly doing that.

    The second set opens with Orinoco Flow, always a crowd favorite. Again Alex is smiling and really having a great time in this ensemble piece.

     Next up Anthony begins the low drone of Amazing Grace though not by coming down the aisle but standing next to the stage and later coming on stage from an oiut of site location. We are again treated to glorious harmonies. I watch Alex as I know this is a spiritual song that this very deeply connected Christian woman will feel. She is singing to the heavens and smiling the whole time. Sing praise to The Lord and she is doing exactly that. No question The Spirit lives in her.

    Susan next takes a seat next to the piano and Brian accompanies her in a very pretty version of Caledonia. It is perhaps my favorite solo of the night.

    More pure vocals are next as Susan starts Over The Rainbow. This song has never been on my list of all time favorites but this moving harmony brings me the closest of the night to a few tears. This combination of voices is very good and that song has never been better than when CW does it. Sorry, Dorothy.

   Ray comes out and does his Bodhran shtick which he has great fun with. It is buying time for costume change and as he leaves he is chased back onto the stage by the sprite with her fiddle. It turns into another party as the song I first saw at Powerscourt, Nil Se'n La, is up next. there is so much going on in this song you can't take it all in. sort of like that movie you see over and over but always catch something subtle you missed before. All of them are flying high and Alex really does add to the energy. She has been doing so all night.

    Mairead is next with her signature fast air, Granuaile's Dance. The audience claps along and she has great fun with it. She is not doing all the gymnastics she used to do but those were a bonus. It is her music and her persona that enchant and this tune always highlights it.

    Lynn does her second solo of the night, Scarborough Fair. It is a song well suited to her and taps perhaps a bit of the ancient hippie inside her. Well done.

     Alex is next for a song most will forever connect to Lisa Kelly. In fact, Lisa named her business this and I had just heard her do her signature song again only a few days ago. It is, of course, The Voice. Alex did this in 2008 when Lisa was on pregnancy leave awaiting Ellie. So weird now that Ellie now performs on stage with her mom! Most made unfair comparisons back in the day. They did so again when Susan was given the song. Personally I wish David would retire signature songs with the artist much as a professional sports team does a jersey. But, that has never been the case and so Alex once again tackles this power song. She has the power, she has the connectivity, she has the presence, and she has the presence. She does it very well and belts it out with all her heart. Again, it is fun just watching her face as she sings. She lives everything she does. It's who she is. Tonight she is the voice.

    Mo Ghile Mhear is next and the high energy, all cylinders powerhouse song is something CW has always needed in its shows. It really highlights the entire ensemble and is a crowd favorite. It also means we are near the end of the night.

     Mairead introduces You Raise Me Up and it is as lovely as always. I do prefer it when they use the second verse but they only did that for a tour or two. Alex again feels the connection with that higher power and her audience. They raise us up, we raise them up, and it is all a glorious plan from something much bigger than us.

     The show ends with one of my favorites, The Parting Glass. I really like the way they do this especially with the pipes added in. Marvelous way to wrap it up.

     But it isn't a total wrap as the encore brings Anto out and a royal jam on the pipes. Gone is the sizzling fiddler finale but Anto does a great job too. M spends most of her time running around introducing the cast as she fiddles in between. Each gets a chance to do one last bit before it ends and they all exit with a wave. I get a nice smile and hello from Alex as she leaves.

     About two dozen of us make our way to the post show meet & greet. Chuck and his wife are about sixth in line, followed by myself, Dwight, and the rest of the group. These are not what they used to be. The plus is all four girls and a photo. The minus is scant time allowed and no autographs. I get a bried "well this is cool" comment from the fiddler about my attire, polite hand shakes and a hello from each and then the photo. The out the door. Honestly it is not very good bang for the buck. It was not that way in the tours between the reign of Rachel and the current reign of Maggie. When Bubba, Dustin, or Ken ran the tour it was far more open and less rushed. But all those folks are gone and this is what it is now. For me it was my final paid meet & greet and that only because of Dwight's kindness. But Alex is to my right in the photo and I hope it turned out OK. I haven't taken it out of the camera yet.

     When I heard Alex would tour with CW for part of this round I was thrilled. I was thrilled about Meav too but did not attend any shows early enough to be part of that this spring. Alex absolutely made the show for me on this night. Not that everyone else wasn't good. They were all excellent. But Alex's persona just shined all night. I couldn't help but smile. I couldn't help but think about how much I've missed her in this show and how long it had been since I was able to hear her in a live performance again. Utah Christmas with Jenny a couple years ago was it. I'll get three more with her and CW and then, God willing, those Utah performances in August. Phoenix was worth it just to hear and see Alex again in the show that introduced her to many of us. Well done and I am properly Alexified again.
 
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Dwight
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« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2015, 05:42:51 AM »

Here is my picture of the Meet and Greet I got the girls Doggies that I found at the Airport while waiting for Scott to show. I did not go to work that day.
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Apollomoon
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« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2015, 09:59:23 PM »

Thanks for that Scott. Felt like the old times for a bit reading it.

I plan to see them at Proctors Theater next month as they will be in town for 2 shows. I will probably go to at least one of them.
That was the only place I ever saw Alex perform. Seems kind of strange to say that actually.

We plan to actually get together and visit while she is in the area. That will be a treat. I hope we can make the connection, it is important to us both.

Thanks once again for the good old fashioned review.
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steveyoung
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« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2015, 09:41:32 PM »

Hey Dave, here's hoping you have a great visit! I know her travel schedule is awful with almost no time to breathe, so hopefully you'll get to connect and have at least some quality time.
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Moscapoet
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« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2015, 03:39:49 PM »

Nice photo with the critters, Dwight. Dave, have a great time at the show and outside of it. BTW, someone in the M forum has two tickets for Schenectady if you know of any takers in the area. It will be very cool for you and Alex to finally meet up even if briefly. Convey the love from all of us here.
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